It seems things have cooled down after an eventful summer on The Magnificent Mile. We will continue to prioritize district safety in lockstep with the City as we prepare for a re-imagined holiday season, featuring a Lights Festival TV special on ABC 7 that will include A-list talent and greetings from our friends at Disney World.
While we look forward to the familiar, the Association’s efforts in response to COVID-19, civil unrest and subsequent challenges in the district have been anything but. Like so many of you, we experienced a painful contraction of staff and resources early in the pandemic. Hospitality was hit hard, yet our members and volunteer leaders continued to offer a great deal of support. I would like to acknowledge some of the creative thinkers who have rolled up their sleeves to help us each step of the way.
In May, we planned to celebrate the centennial of the DuSable Bridge, the gateway to our district and a major reason our Association was founded. Our newest board member Susie Jablonski, President of Jablonski and Associates, spearheaded a virtual tribute with Born Ready Films. Hours of Zoom interviews culminated in a video featured a special greeting from Mayor Lori Lightfoot that received 10,000 views overnight. If you are seeking a well-spoken, thoughtful strategist and storyteller, I would highly recommend reaching out to Susie.
Ahead of Phase 3, we produced a digital-first welcome campaign, created by Stacy Sweat, Owner of Stacy Sweat Designs, that encouraged visitors to “Come Together #OnTheMile.” We came together indeed – colleagues and friends of the Association from all walks of life – for a summer photoshoot. We donned masks that were custom branded and donated by Georgios Georgiou, founder of Gigi Seasons. Given the growing list of travel restrictions, we must remain nimble in our messaging, and our members’ creative flair and positive energy are just what we need!
In June, we doubled web traffic on TheMagnificentMile.com by promoting our members’ re-opening plans. Shortly after, we began trending for all the wrong reasons in the wake of civil unrest. Our district’s resolve was tested once again, but we persevered by coming together:
- We stood alongside Mayor Lightfoot for the announcement of the 5-Point Protection Plan, which functions on a robust public-private partnership.
- We are now in regular communication with the Chicago Police Department, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, and other city departments to provide real-time alerts to our members.
- A dedicated Looting Task Force has secured 74 arrests so far with the support of the FBI, and CPD is working closely with the Cook County State Attorney’s Office.
- Rapid deployment drills downtown have further displayed impressive coordination between CPD and city departments.
Meanwhile, our staff and Executive Committee have taken extraordinary measures to keep the Association afloat, including the creation of a special appeal and Alternative Revenue Committee. Our President & CEO, Kimberly Bares, who just celebrated one year on the job, has served on two of the City’s recovery task forces, while we attempt to secure funding from a variety of sources at the federal, state, and local level.
Once again, we find ourselves on more solid footing. Our small but mighty staff has been restored to full-time and we are long overdue to connect in person – from a safe distance, of course. We have limited spots open for our first-ever speed networking on Thursday, October 15. A big thank you to our host, The Northman on The Riverwalk.
As we look ahead, we are building upon the great work and collaboration done by our staff, board, members, and partners:
- The Executive Committee has approved moving forward with a Special Service Area, a tax district along Michigan Avenue that will provide revenue for expanded services like private security, street improvements, and business development. We have held meetings with both the city and affected property owners.
- We are also looking at re-invigorating The Magnificent Mile Charitable Foundation to play a greater role in helping address the many needs of our community and building bridges to our city’s many great neighborhoods.
- We cannot produce the traditional in-person parade for the Lights Festival, but we can provide an inspiring experience celebrating the holiday season. Stay tuned for more opportunities to come as we finalize this year’s spectacle!
While we solidify our end-of-year activities to provide a lift for our member businesses during the holidays, we are also planning for long-term recovery in 2021. For now, we welcome the change of seasons. The mayor is beginning to lift restrictions which we hope will help us all advance toward recovery, as we leave behind the disruptions and uncertainty. We look forward to recovering our businesses, reengaging our staff and customers, and move forward with a greater awareness, understanding, and empathy.
Rich Gamble, Chair of the Board