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Retail vacancies highest downtown – Evanston Now

An analysis of retail vacancy data by Evanston’s Economic Development staff concludes the city’s neighborhood shopping districts are proving more resilient than downtown in the current economic climate.

The data from CoStar Retail Analytics shows that vacancies downtown have risen from 9.2% last year to 11.7% this year.

By comparison, the retail vacancy rate for properties across the city’s other shopping districts has increased only from 4.6% to 4.9%.

Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development manager, told residents at a 5th Ward meeting Thursday night that downtown — which contains the bulk of the city’s office space — has been much more severely impacted by the work-at-home movement brought on by the COVID -19 epidemic.

People who are working from home may still be going out to shop or dine at lunchtime in their own neighborhoods, Zalmezak says, but many office workers who previously commuted into Evanston haven’t returned — or are only in the office a few days a week .

Despite that, Zalmezak pointed to several encouraging signs of a revival downtown — ranging from the reopening of the movie theater and the anticipated opening of several new shops in the Church Street Plaza development to the plans of the new owners of the Orrington Hotel for an extensive development renovation of the city’s largest hotel property.

He also suggested that the construction now underway of a 10-story research lab building on the former Burger King site, just up Orrington Avenue from the hotel, will help expand the pool of office workers downtown.

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