Initial plans have been approved for a new program to revitalize the retail scene along LaSalle Street in The Loop. Riding the wave from the recently announced bids for the city’s LaSalle Street Reimagined initiative, the new program looks to address the vast amount of vacant retail and commercial spaces fronting the once-packed street. Introduced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the program will tap into local TIF’s and serve the same area bound by W Washington Street to the north and W Van Buren Street to the south.
With an estimated 36 percent vacancy rate the once-bustling corridor has seen better days. Offering $196 million in city incentives, LaSalle Street Reimagined has proposed nearly $1.2 billion in work in order to bring nearly 2,000 residential units to the strip of which 30 percent will need to be affordable. Developers also brought various commercial space proposals for the ground floors ranging from grocers to restaurants, future tenants of these could apply to the new program as they build-out their businesses.
In recent years The Loop’s population has grown by 158 percent, with demand still strong and new residents looking for more reasons to stay within its boundaries. Thus the new retail grant program will inject an additional $5 million in funding from the same source, the LaSalle Central TIF District, towards restaurants and cultural establishments. Applicants could receive grants of up to $250,000, with businesses expanding from low to moderate income neighborhoods being eligible for an additional $50,000 according to the Sun Times.
The fund may only be used for local retailers with franchises, liquor stores, residential, bars, or banquet halls being eligible for the funds, and they must utilize the first floor of the building they are applying for as well. The program has been fully approved by the City Council’s Finance Committee, however skeptics have mentioned the difficulty of opening commercial prior to the residential portion being built-out, as well as how long the program will take to fully launch, and if businesses will last if demand doesn’t grow concurrently.