As the weather has begun warming up and more Chicagoans get vaccinated for COVID-19, pedestrian traffic to the Loop has been on the rise.
To capitalize on this, the Chicago Loop Alliance announced in its annual meeting Tuesday that it would be introducing several events as part of their Back In The Loop program to accelerate the economic recovery of the Loop.
“Because of the pandemic, a lot of people are not visiting, for either business or leisure,“ CLA president and CEO Michael Edwards said. “Our arts and culture community has been devastated.”
In the meeting, which was held both remotely and in-person for a limited number of seats, CLA discussed its plans for three major cultural programs to bring foot traffic back downtown — a self-guided mural walk, a weekly event called Sundays on State and pop-up activations at retail locations that have become vacant since the pandemic.
The mural walk, which is being created by the Chicago Loop Alliance, will take pedestrians to over 20 murals in the Loop area in “reasonable” walking time, according to CLA planning director Kalindi Parikh.
The group is in the early stages of planning Sundays on State, an event that will shut off State Street traffic from Lake Street to Madison Street for outdoor performances and outdoor recreation to encourage pedestrians to shop in the Loop. Sundays on State will take place in July, August and September from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Parikh said plans were subject to change based on public health guidance as CLA gets closer to summer.
During the pandemic, several Loop retailers went out of business and their stores went vacant. To utilize this space, the alliance will be encouraging local arts groups and performers to open pop-ups in some of these spaces.
“It seems that as the vaccination effort ramps up, people are wanting to return downtown, and that is really encouraging,” Parikh said. “We’re hoping to build on that excitement and capitalize on it when we can.”
In the past month, CLA has recorded a 35% increase in pedestrian traffic on State Street. Edwards said that by the Fourth of July, the organization anticipates the Loop would be back to about 50% capacity.
CLA is already working with several Loop businesses to schedule future events. The Joffrey Ballet has been in contact with the organization and plans to host performances at Sundays on State events.
“We want people to fall back in love with State Street and come down and explore what the street has to offer,” Joffrey Ballet president and CEO and State Street Commission member Greg Cameron said.
As a part of Tuesday’s meeting, CLA also updated its mission statement to read, “Chicago Loop alliance creates, manages and promotes positive and inclusive programs that attract people to the Loop and accelerate economic recovery.” They also announced their new board of directors.
Edwards also said they plan to host Arts in the Dark again this fall and to bring back their Downtown Future Series of webinars.