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Chicago's shopping malls going down?

There are people who feel that this has something to do with the ramp-up in Chicag's crime rate. Those people are blatantly racist.

Besides things are getting much better. Just kidding...they're not getting better.

The state of city malls

Photo of the inside of a mall

Water Tower Place. Photo: Carrie Shepherd/Axios

Several malls inside Chicago's city limits are trying to fend off the death of in-person shopping.

The big picture: City malls are facing retail vacancies due to higher rent prices and decreased foot traffic as downtown continues to see mixed results with workers returning to the office.

While the challenges are different from suburban malls — due mainly to cost of land and density, developers are adopting some of the same solutions, like reinventing spaces as lifestyle and entertainment hubs.

By the numbers: North Michigan Avenue's vacancy has risen to 33%, or at least 1 million of the street's 3.2 million square feet, since 2021, Crain's reports.

State of play: Chicago's Water Tower Place is signaling a move away from retail, looking to sell off its top floors to office space. This comes after the owners of the distressed mall walked away from the property in 2022.

Meanwhile, 900 N. Michigan (just north of Water Tower Place) appears to be standing strong — due in part, building managers say, to marketing the shopping destination as a "lifestyle building," with a gym and a salon.

Zoom in: Three city malls are in danger of becoming ghost malls and eventually dying off.

📍 Water Tower Place

835 N. Michigan Ave.

The top floor of Water Tower Place. Photo: Carrie Shepherd/Axios

Chicago's granddaddy luxury mall, a focal point in many local families' holiday memories, has so far fended off the Grim Reaper.

Though the American Girl and Lego stores still attract many shoppers, Water Tower Place lost Macy's last year and is selling off the top floors for possible office use — not a great sign for the famous Mag Mile anchor.

📍 Century Shopping Centre

2828 N. Clark St.

Century Shopping Centre. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

In the 1990s, this was the place for city teens to hang out and get the same mall experience suburban kids got from Woodfield or Spring Hill. Over time, the mall changed ownership and eventually became just a big foyer for the Landmark Cinema upstairs.

Yes, but: Century Centre has made renovations, adding entertainment and lifestyle attractions like an arts spinning studio to complement an ax-throwing spot and an Aveda training center.

📍 The Shops at North Bridge

520 N. Michigan Ave.

Top floor of The Shops at North Bridge. Photo: Justin Kaufmann

This was a highly touted luxury mall when Nordstrom came to Michigan Avenue in 1995. Over time, the mall has featured apparel shops, high-end chocolatiers and a bustling food court.

Today, most of the remaining stores are on the first floor, which connects to the department store's main floor.

Because more offices have gone remote, the fourth-floor food court is a shell of what it once was.

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