Axios Chicago

Picture of the Chicago skyline.

🏁 Happy Tuesday! On this day in 1895, six "motocycles" left Jackson Park to race to Evanston and back. The race was won with a time of just over 10 hours and an average speed of 7.3 mph.

πŸ₯Ά Today's weather: Brrrr. Mostly sunny with a high of 25Β°.

Today's newsletter is 925 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Downtown wants you back

cop on magnificent mile

Police cars with lights flashing have become a fixture on the Magnificent Mile, in part to remind visitors of the expanded police presence in the popular shopping area. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Business leaders are touting improved downtown safety in an effort to bring people back to the area this holiday season.

Why it matters: Downtown is still hurting from high office vacancies driven by the pandemic, along with a lingering perception of danger after unrest in 2020.

By the numbers: Chicago's office vacancy rate hit a record 23.7% this fall, Crain's reported, as businesses continue to shed office space and transition employees to remote work.

Yes, but: A new Harris Poll reported by Crain's found that only about 53% of Cook County respondents said they feel safe downtown.

What's happening: Robust downtown policing, better maintained surveillance cameras, more security guards, and a new type of non-shattering glass for storefronts have helped put the incidents of 2020 "in our rearview mirror," Kimberly Bares, CEO of the Magnificent Mile Association, told WBBM.

  • "For some folks, no amount of me or anyone else saying it will convince them. They just have to come down and see it with their own two eyes."

The big picture: Chicago saw the nation's second- and third-highest levels of organized retail theft in 2019 and 2020, but dropped last year to seventh – tied with Sacramento.

What they're saying: Bares credits state legislation and cooperation with retailers often used to resell the stolen goods, in addition to the arrests of Tacarre Harper's crew, linked to hundreds of thousands of dollars in thefts on the Gold Coast.

  • "They've been put away for 10-12 years, and when that crew was caught and stopped, we saw the number of those kinds of burglaries drop precipitously," Bares told WBBM.

Reality check: Last month the Louis Vuitton store on Michigan Avenue was robbed by a smash-and-grab crew.

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2. πŸ› Holiday shopping forecast

tree and shoppers

A Target store on Black Friday in Chicago in 2022. Photo: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Even though shoppers flooded local shops and malls this past weekend, a new survey suggests holiday spending in our area will be down this year.

Why it matters: Many small-business owners worry that this holiday season could be "make or break."

Details: Deloitte's new survey of more than 410 people, conducted from Aug. 30 to Sept. 18, suggests Chicagoans will spend $1,600 on average this holiday season, down 6% from last year.

Yes, but: Average holiday shopping is still up from pre-pandemic levels, per the report.

More stats:

  • On average, Chicagoans buy nine gifts in the holiday season.
  • Chicago consumers will visit only 4.2 brick-and-mortar stores this year, down from 6.1 last year. Visits to department stores are expected to be down 5%.
  • Consumers will also spend less time shopping β€” 5.6 weeks in the holiday window, as opposed to 5.8 weeks in 2022.

The intrigue: It's not just gifts; consumers say they'll spend 16% less on holiday experiences.

3. It's Giving Tuesday

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Today is Giving Tuesday, when many Americans will donate money or clothes to those in need.

What's happening: Chicago nonprofits have already seen many charitable donations this year, particularly to groups collecting winter clothing for migrants.

  • Some local collection programs, including efforts at St. Mary of the Lake in Uptown and Our Lady of Lourdes on Ashland, have become so overwhelmed they've put a pause on donations.

Yes, but: Other organizations could still use more.

  • Cradles to Crayons executive director Dawn Melchiorre tells Axios they've delivered more than 20,000 donated coats across the area over the last three weeks, and aim to collect 50,000 total.
  • The group is especially in need of new and gently worn coats in baby sizes 0-3 as well as adult sizes small and medium.

For those looking to donate, the group has more than 100 drop-off sites.

What's more: Local real estate agent β€” and our former WBEZ colleague β€” Jesse TreviΓ±o is hosting his second annual coat drive on Dec. 9 with a goal of collecting 150 coats.

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4. Tips and hot links

Illustration of the Art Institute of Chicago's Lion statue holding a newspaper in its mouth.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The downtown campus of Northwestern University was put on lockdown last night after shots were reportedly fired nearby. (CBS 2)

🀧 Ed Burke's corruption trial is being delayed again after another lawyer tested positive for COVID-19. (Tribune)

🚊 The CTA has yet to reopen the Yellow Line after a Nov. 16 crash injured almost 40 people. (Sun-Times)

Plan your future

πŸ’Ό See current open positions on our Job Board.

  1. Head of Internal Communications at Project 44.
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Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

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5. Bears finally beat rival Vikings

Photo of a football player lifting another football player off the ground in celebration

Chicago Bears kicker Cairo Santos (8) is picked up by Chicago Bears offensive lineman Lucas Patrick (62) after kicking a game-winning 30-yard field goal during the fourth quarter. Photo: Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears did something they haven't done all season, orchestrating a game-winning drive to beat the Vikings in Minnesota 12-10.

What happened: The Bears dominated for most of the game, but gave up a late fourth-quarter touchdown to fall behind 10-9.

Yes, but: Fields led the Bears down the field and kicker Cairo Santos booted a game-winner with seconds to play.

MVP: Fields is the best player on the field, fumbles and all.

  • The Bears defense should get all the credit though, holding the Vikings to just 10 points.

LVP: The Bears offensive play-calling strategy was questionable. Fields completed almost half of his passes behind the line of scrimmage.

Five-word review: Bears finally silence the horn.

6. πŸ“Ί Chicago's Elite 8 commercials

Bracket: Axios Visuals
Bracket: Axios Visuals

Hundreds of readers voted in the first round of our quest to crown Chicago's best-ever local TV ad.

Biggest win: Empire Carpet made quick work of Eddie and Jobo's United Auto Insurance ads (94% to 6%).

Closest win: Bob Rohrman roared late to upset the Walter E. Smithe collection (51%-49%).

Most surprising: No love for Scottie Pippen's sub sandwich innuendo? Andriana Furs moves on easily (66%-34%).

The next round is tough. Vote here until 4pm.

Edited by Alexa Mencia and copy edited by Rob Reinalda and Keely Bastow.

Our picks:

πŸ™‹β€β™€οΈ Monica is excited about attending the Let's Talk Womxn Hangout on Thursday night at Vermilion, where Axios' Margaret Talev and Soul & Smoke's Heather Bublick, among others, will give inspiring soapbox talks. Check it out.

πŸ₯˜ Justin is stretching his Thanksgiving leftovers. He plans to be eating green bean casserole until the weekend. Wish him luck!

🏝️ Carrie is on vacation.

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