The Magnificent Mile: Building the First Chicago Retail Equity Zone

July 12, 2021

“Being the mayor of the third largest city in the country, that's humbling, but it also gives me incredible hope”

From the Desk of Lori: 

Symbols matter. And there is no greater symbol of Chicago’s broad and diverse shoulders as the Magnificent Mile. Yet the anti-equity policies of retailers such as Macy’s that decided not to renew leases on Michigan Avenue have led to other national brands replacing artfully painted BLM plywood edifice monikers with empty storefronts (as to Macy’s, good riddance to their racist Frangos which force you to chomp on darkness before getting to the good stuff inside).

Seriously, the situation is grim: Nearly 1/3rd of retail space sits empty on this section of Michigan Avenue. Moreover, others such as Target, have recently prioritized profits over equity in deciding not to open new stores, despite their promises to me.

You might say this is not in your backyard, but this is impacting my wardrobe. I used to buy my sack suits at Brooks Brothers, but now I need to have my detail drive to Oak Brook for the latest in fashion. For the first time in over 50 years, there is not a Brooks Brothers within city limits unless you count O’Hare airport shopping, which I refuse to visit because the Juneteenth flag has not yet replaced the Chicago flag in most terminals like it has at City Hall for at least one month of the year (during my next term, I will work on overcoming this blatant example of Daley-legacy racism, as well as getting rid of the racist US flag at Customs and Immigration).

But back to the present day: Why is retail leaving? I have been told theft is an issue as well as the decline of tourists, who are afraid of having their belongings redistributed or getting stabbed or shot. I believe this is an excuse which reeks of what one Brit told me represents “high street” racism, even if in Chicago I think it means something else for the teens who congregate peacefully in the Loop on the weekends.

Regardless, we need a solution to operationalize racial equity and defeat white supremacy on Michigan Avenue, which in turn will bring back street traffic and fix the vacancy issue. Kim suggested these three ideas to me to help transform the Magnificent Mile into the first Chicago Retail Equity Zone:

  1. Bring in a new group of tenants to increase foot traffic. Dollar General, Sharks Fish and Chicken and Pawn America have all approached Michigan Avenue landlords in recent weeks about open space. I am supportive of these efforts as it will diversify the culinary and shopping options on the Magnificent Mile. And also, in the case of the latter, it will allow for the redistribution of merchandise from Burberry and the Nike Store in a greener fashion – fewer miles traveled – after the next peaceful march, reducing the need to raise the bridges (also reducing greenhouse emissions). Of note: Sharks is also considering the soon-to-be-empty Spiaggia’s space as a test kitchen! 
  1. Lock up merchandise: Despite Kim’s good intentions with this idea, I am not supportive of locking up merchandise as Walgreens has done throughout much of the city. The plastic barrier between shoppers and merchandise is symbolic of racial inequity. I will propose legislation next week to ban this practice and to allow for people to once again “shop” freely.
  1. Use eminent domain and insider sway to transform The Casino Club into a casino. The elite club that sits in the shadow of the John Hancock could be the foundation of a high-rise casino which would both increase foot traffic (Kim tells me this will reduce crime) and provide a much needed tax injection for the city. Apparently there is some support among progressive board members of this institution for this initiative thanks to the success of the (top, top, top secret) joint Chicago mayoral administration White Privilege Exorcism Anti-Racist Task Force (WPEAR) that has been secretly funding diversity, equity and inclusion programs aimed at the re-education of the Latin and Parker communities (open to the public: visit us in Room 101). 


EVEN THOUGH YOU DO NOT COME TO THE OFFICE ANYMORE, you can use Twitter (@LoriLightfoot) to vote for your favorite one (or offer up something else which Lori will blame on racism). And be sure to tag @ChicagoContrar1 and #maggotmile as well. Finally, if you like our attempt at satire Lori Lightfoot style, let us know and next time we’ll try harder.

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