The Bloom is Off Chicago’s Magnificent Mile

A personal note:

Since moving to Chicago’s Near North Side Streeterville neighborhood with my family in summer 1969, I’ve lived near the Mag Mile on one of its side streets.

Never having lived in a downtown area before, it took some getting used to before being acclimated to our new environs — bounded by the Chicago River, Lake Michigan and Michigan Avenue’s Mag Mile on its south, north and east sides respectively.

At my age, I’m not out and about like I used to be.

So firsthand knowledge of what’s discussed below is largely from what I’m told by neighbors.

It’s not a pretty picture, far different from my neighborhood over half a century ago when my purpose for moving to Chicago was to expand the small family business I was part of to the midwest.

I’ve been here since that time.

I’ve also very concerned about the deterioration of my neighborhood under siege by looting and other street crime.

What for me is the heart of what Frank Sinatra called “my kind of town” is no longer what he experienced when visiting the city  long ago.

According to a late August (RCP below) report:

Two blocks from where I live, “(t)here were four times as many crimes reported in (areas) around (the) Water Tower Place (indoor shopping mall) over the last year than in the once-notorious Cabrini-Green” Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) public housing project about a mile west of the Mag Mile before demolished in 2011.

On Mondays, the Chicago Tribune and other local media report the weekend’s body count. 

Assaults and other violent crime are covered in daily news reports.

During warm weather especially, the toll at times resembles an after-action report from a war zone. 

“What happens to Chicago if (its Mag Mile) becomes known as the Murderous Mile,” RCP asked?

Crimes ranging from shoplifting to sexual and other assaults, battery and homicides drive businesses, shoppers and pedestrians away.

They also adversely affect the value of area commercial and privately owned residences.

In July, Chicago Magazine discussed what it called “the lean mile,” explaining the following:

When Water Tower Place (WTP) opened in 1976 across from Chicago’s famed Water Tower on opposite sides of the city’s Mag Mile, it featured an array of upscale retail stores — anchored by Marshall Field’s and Lord & Taylor.

Founded in 1852, MF is now Macy’s on N. State street in Chicago’s Loop.

Founded in 1824, L & T was the longest-established US department store until closing all its locations in 2021.

WTP spaces where both of the above department stores operated are now vacant, Chicago Magazine (CM) explained.

Gone are the Gap, Banana Republic and other WTP shops.

“The food court’s highlight is an M Burger,” said CM.

What WTP was when opened a near-half century ago is long gone.

According to area Alderman Brian Hopkins, restoration of WTP as it once was is “not going to happen.”

And reality extends along the “entire Mag Mile…in need of revitalization,” CM explained.

The vacancy rate at one of the nation’s premier upscale shopping areas is now 22% — “compared with 4 percent in 2016.”

For the city, its sales tax revenue is 23% lower “year-over-year (in) the 60611 ZIP code” area, what includes the Mag Mile.

Because of widespread numbers of homicides, assaults, “carjackings and ‘smash-and-grab’ thefts,” area safety isn’t what it used to be — especially after dark.

Together with City Hall in the Loop, “urban planners, architects, and civic and business experts (are) work(ing) on a rescue strategy,” CM reported.

If approved by city authorities, the Mag Mile may be “rema(de) into a pedestrian-friendly promenade, with wider sidewalks, extended green spaces, and ‘pocket parks’ (with) plazas for wandering, lounging, or grabbing a drink.”

Lots of ideas are under consideration, including what’s crucial to the success of whatever is approved — making the area as crime-free as possible.

Alderman Hopkins stressed what’s well-known in real estate circles — “location, location, location,” adding:

“(W)e’ve got location already.”

“So the top three things are public safety, public safety, public safety.”

Financing is another major issue, notably at time of what may be sharp and protracted economic contraction.

It’s also at a time when WTP’s owner, “Brookfield Properties, handed (it) to its lender, MetLife.” 

The property “is now worth less than $300 million owed on it.”

It’s “another sign that (Chicago’s Mag) Mile lost its magnificence,” the publication lamented.

Ahead of federal, state and city elections in November, GOP attorney general aspirant, private attorney Tom DeVore, called for “tak(ing) back Chicago (and) mak(ing) the (Mag Mile) magnificent again.”

A Final Comment

Illinois hasn’t had a multi-term GOP governor since Jim Edgar from 1991 – 1999.

Chicago hasn’t had a GOP mayor since “Big Bill” Thompson from 1927 – 1931.

Since then, Chicago’s notorious Dem machine controlled city politics to the detriment of most residents.

University of Illinois Political Science Professor-emeritus, Dick Simpson, earlier explained that Chicago’s dirty politics “reputation is true.”

Dem machine control discourages  politicians from rival parties to run for mayor and aldermanic offices.

Long ago alderman, Paddy Bowler, once noted what reflects longstanding Dem machine politics, saying: 

“Chicago ain’t ready for reform.”


One thought on “The Bloom is Off Chicago’s Magnificent Mile

Add yours

  1. Sad. Emblematic of the fractured-societal dissolution of America. I can’t see a “re”solution…too many — far too many, in the millions — of guns; overseas follies, misadventures, crimes bleeding back to home territory; rapacious capitalism….

    Lots of words related to Mag Mile, Murderous Mile, Lean Mile…how about Mean Mile?

    Thanks for presenting this reality, Mr. Lendman.

    (When I read sadnesses like this, I’m more and more drawn to the concept of FDR’s “Fireside Chats.” Does Chicago’s Major sit down weekly at, say, 7 PM on all the prime TV channels, face the cameras and her people, and talk — really talk — for at least 60 minutes as “one of the people” to her people, counseling togetherness rather than separateness, gentility rather than violence, kindness rather than belligerence, good news in the midst of bad news, her hopes for renewal of Chicago’ spirit…?)


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