Data on foot traffic to retail chains indicates downtown Evanston is lagging most nearby areas in recovering from the pandemic., which reports foot traffic to stores based on geolocation data from customers mobile devices, says that as of May this year foot traffic to retail chains in the downtown Evanston special service area was only 70% of the level recorded in May 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic.

By contrast, retail foot traffic within the larger 60201 ZIP code that includes downtown has recovered to 80% of its pre-pandemic level. And in the south Evanston 60202 ZIP code foot traffic to stores is actually slightly higher than it was before the pandemic.

Other data from shows that many office workers are continuing to work from home, at least a few days a week. Office visits in Chicago were down 46.8% in May 2023 compared to the same month in 2019.

That likely explains much of the difference between the performance of downtown Evanston, which pre-pandemic had a large contingent of office workers, and the 60202 ZIP code, which has relatively little office space and several shopping centers that people can drive to from home.

Data for the ZIP codes that surround Evanston show a mixed picture, ranging from full recovery to still lagging performance.

The Skokie 60077 ZIP code that includes the Westfield Old Orchard shopping center, downtown Skokie and several large office buildings along the Edens Expressway shows a foot traffic level of just 73% — nearly as severe a drop off as downtown Evanston’s.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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    1. Central Street in included in the 60201 data. doesn’t offer a breakout for any individual business district in Evanston other than downtown.
      — Bill

    1. “elections have consequences”? So what is that supposed to mean?

      Covid has consequences. Maybe if we’d had a president to hit Covid head on with vaccine instead of denial had consequences. Having businesses and restaurants close has consequences. Having NU shutter its classes and doors had consequences. Having a City that insists on charging for parking in business districts has consequences. Over simplification is easy. It rarely tells the whole story.

  1. It’s the parking meters! People have been saying that for years and no one listens

  2. According the the website Chicago foot traffic is down much more. It will be interesting to see if they publish numbers for June. My subjective experience working downtown is that it seems more crowded starting in June.

    Downtown Evanston has both people coming into work and probably many residents who normally work in the Loop. In the latter group, if they work from home, that would be a boost to foot traffic.

    1. Well Gary, if the downtown businesses go under, then their owners may very well become homeless.

  3. To the members of the city council, here’s how to stop the decline of retail in Evanston.

    1- Stop passing anti-business ordinances. We all know what they are. When everything gets better in a couple of years you can go back to your anti-business socialist ways but for now, cool your jets.

    2 – Back off on sales taxes. Inflation is killing people and when a burrito costs more than $10 at Chipotle something has to change.

    3 – Get the beggars and the addicts out of the CBD. More specifically, stop importing these grifters. Through flyers and info cards, Connections advertises for people to come to Evanston. Madness! On errands today to Blick, Ace, Jewel and Trader Joes, I counted 17 addicts and grifters in and around Evanston. I’m not kidding. One had even pitched a tent in the park by the Salvation Army. Three had camped out by the Jewel and another was asking for cash (or Venmo) at the entrance to the parking deck.

    4 – Cut the parking fees in the CBD by 50% and make sure everyone knows about it.

    5 – Clean up downtown. There’s garbage in the streets, trash cans overflow, graffiti is everywhere by the Metra and El stops. There are weeds in the planters and at the base of the trees.The fountain doesn’t work.

    6 – Stop the racers from revving engines in downtown and tearing down Davis street at night. It’s dangerous. I know you’ve heard and seen them.

    All of this costs money. But Evanston doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has an expense problem. Start spending money in areas that generate a return.

    Damn, I wish I was mayor. Fixing this isn’t hard. You just have to want to fix it.

    All for now.

  4. It is not surprising that foot traffic downtown. Evanston has not rebounded as much as it should. Most of the stores are still closed. I live downtown and always look for places to have lunch and it’s harder and harder to find one. As far as retail target is pretty much it. Are Evanston’s high rents, keeping businesses from opening here?

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