These two recent Chicago Tribune headlines says it all:
- Editorial: The alarming downward spiral of downtown Chicago. Is a comeback possible?
- Six months into the pandemic, downtown Chicago is a humbled giant. Can it get back on its feet?
A vaccine could create an eventual return to the pre-pandemic downtown. But even with a vaccine, some companies could stick with hybrid arrangements that let employees partially work at home. Surveys show that many employees like the arrangement, which saves them money and commuting time.If the desire to escape the dense downtown persists, it also could boost the suburban office market as well as planned office and apartment megaprojects near the fringes of downtown, like Lincoln Yards and The 78."We stand on the possibility that we might have a reversal or a transformative effect that was entirely unpredictable,” said Ebner, the Lake Forest history professor.But he and other historians emphasize that such reversals have been predicted before, only to see downtown Chicago reinvent itself with such features as Millennium Park and the downtown Riverwalk, leading not just to a rebound but to spectacular bursts of growth.After 9/11, Lissner said she wondered if anyone would want to live or work above the eighth floor, but they did. “I don’t think this is the demise of downtown living or downtown working,” Lissner said of the current crisis.Reilly acknowledged a likely long road back for many aspects of the downtown economy, such as tourism and retail, calling it “nearly a certainty that 20% of our bars and restaurants will close and will not come back.”It will take more federal aid and flexibility in city regulations, such as increasing capacity levels, liquor-serving hours and street closures to create outdoor seating, for the rest of the bars and restaurants to hang on, Reilly said.“Take a pandemic, layer on top of that an economic disaster greater than the Great Depression and then sprinkle in some civil unrest,” Reilly said. “No one could contemplate this happening 12 months ago, all at once. But Chicago has survived worse. We survived the fire, for crying out loud. We’re going to get through this."
It's hard to know what will come next and we haven't even touched upon the impending craziness of the November election.
It's going to be hard for Chicago (and other big cities). It seems like the best we can hope for is a slow, gradual ramp back up...
...at worst, well - it pains us to even contemplate.