Mayor Brandon Johnson outlines vision for downtown revitalization

The mayor touts efforts to bolster sports and cultural events like NASCAR and Sundays on State and creating a panel to advise on growth. The developers converting the Thompson Center for Google’s Chicago headquarters also shared that work on the building will begin in about a week.

SHARE Mayor Brandon Johnson outlines vision for downtown revitalization

The Chicago Loop Alliance will bring back the Sundays on State festival this summer after last year’s success.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Mayor Brandon Johnson highlighted ongoing efforts to revitalize downtown during the Chicago Loop Alliance’s annual meeting Thursday at Willis Tower and broadly sketched future steps to make business in the area “even more vibrant.”

The endeavors already in the works include bringing back Sundays on State, supporting existing events such as the NASCAR Street Race and Lollapalooza and funding current and new business ventures in the Loop.

The developers renovating the Thompson Center for Google’s Chicago headquarters also shared that work on the building will begin in about a week.

“You can’t have a successful city without a strong downtown, and the Loop Alliance’s whole purpose is to make a strong downtown,” said Michael Edwards, the president of the Chicago Loop Alliance.

The Chicago Loop Alliance will bring back the Sundays on State festival this summer after last year’s success, Edwards told the 400 people gathered for the meeting.

More than 270,000 people attended the street festival last summer, which was held July 16 and Aug. 13, according to the Loop Alliance. The organization did not announce this year’s dates.

Johnson also shared his administration’s plans for boosting the downtown area, including establishing a downtown economic growth advisory committee. He offered few details on the future effort, but he said more will be shared this spring, and 40 partners would be involved.

The committee “will provide business leaders, organizations and key stakeholders with a direct line of communication with my office and all of the city’s departments,” Johnson said. The partners will be “experts at finding existing ideas, as well as new ideas, to improve downtown business so that it really can become even more vibrant.”

The mayor said his administration is also working on addressing “record-level commercial and retail vacancies” and investing in the downtown area to “transform it into a neighborhood with inclusive housing options and amenities.”

He announced that seven storefront project proposals will receive financial assistance through the city’s small business improvement fund. The city will be providing grants of up to $250,000 to six existing and future Loop restaurants, including The Fillmore and Roanoke Restaurant, and a future museum at the Board of Trade building, Johnson said.

“We are excited to help reinvest in their own success and to create the foundation for additional restaurant space, which the new residents and workers will need,” he said.

The city will open another round of small business grant applications in September, Johnson said.

Developers Mike Reschke and Quintin Primo, who are behind transforming the Thompson Center into Google’s Chicago headquarters, also spoke at the meeting.

“The building is now 100% empty, and we will start working on the building in literally about a week or so. We’ll see fencing going up soon,” Reschke said.

The planned renovation, costing $280 million, will include a new, virtually see-through glass facade while retaining the center’s 17-story atrium. Google bought the Thompson Center in 2022 and hopes to move thousands of employees into the renovated building by 2026.

Google moving into the Thompson Center will also help bolster the downtown area by bringing in well-educated, well-paid employees to the Loop, Reschke said.

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