Many residents, when walking through our community, notice the number of empty storefronts in otherwise bustling commercial districts. Retail vacancy in Chicago has ebbed and flowed since the 2008 financial crisis, most notably when retail vacancy in the Chicago metro area reached 10% in 2017. The vacancy rate rose to 11.6% in the second quarter of 2018, which neared the 2010 peak of 12.1%. The reasons behind this high rate of retail vacancy are not entirely clear. Some have pointed to the larger trend of consumers not frequenting retail stores and preferring to purchase goods online. Others have mentioned the downsizing of larger retail changes as a contributing factor to increased supply of retail space available. That being said, the North Side of Chicago has the lowest vacancy rate at 5.6% according to the commercial real estate firm CBRE.
Several reporters and elected officials have identified a state law that provides property tax breaks to landlords with empty storefronts as a possible reason for empty retail locations. DNA Info reported in 2016 that, “... state law allows the owners of properties that become vacant unexpectedly to ask tax officials for a break on their bill — as long as they are doing everything possible to find a new tenant for the store or office”*. State Rep. Robert Martwick introduced legislation last year that would encourage government taxing agencies to pursue instances of “vacancy fraud”. This type of fraud would include landlords who have received the tax break for many years, but do not actively pursue tenants for the property. The legislation, however, did not get very far in Springfield. Many involved with the legislation acknowledge that the vast majority of landlords do not take advantage of the tax break, but there is a minority who have received the tax break for many years and should be paying the full tax bill. On the other hand, landlords and realtors say that the current law provides support for landlords hoping to rent in a difficult market.
To facilitate connections between landlords and potential tenants, both the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce and East Lakeview Chamber of Commerce maintain active listings of available storefronts. Additionally, they provide resources for new businesses in applying for licenses. There are currently 118 retail listings for rent or sale between the two Chambers. This number includes office space which may not be a direct storefront.
Crains Chicago Business - Are we in a recession? Retail vacancies make it look that way.
Crains Chicago Business - As more stores close, retail vacancies rise again
Curbed Chicago - Legislators are looking to crack down on long-vacant storefronts
Curbed Chicago - Metro Chicago retail vacancy hits 10% as stores shutter
Block Club Chicago - South Shore Landlords Leaving Storefronts Empty On Purpose, Chamber Boss Says
East Lakeview Chamber of Commerce - Storefront Opportunities
Lakeview Chamber of Commerce - Market Data Portal
LoopNet Commercial Real Estate - Listings