Tech firm canceled office plans after rolling gun battle tore through West Loop: report

A wild rolling gun battle that left five people injured in the West Loop on September 29 prompted an out-of-town tech company to nix plans to lease office space in Fulton Market the next day, Crain’s Chicago Business reported Wednesday.

“Their biggest concern was the violence, and then it played out right in front of them,” said the broker who was handling the deal, according to Crain’s.

The late afternoon gunfight between occupants of two or three SUVs stretched from the intersection of Jefferson and Lake to Desplaines and Kinzie and as far north as Milwaukee and Chicago. A bicyclist was among the bystanders struck by bullets.

A bicyclist lies injured near Kinzie and Desplaines shortly after a gunbattle between cars rolled through the West Loop on September 29, 2021. | Provided

Crain’s spoke with several other executives for its story about the potential effects of crime on business in the area:

“I worry it’s only a matter of time that one of my employees is walking from Ogilvie (Transportation Center) to the office and, God forbid, something happens. Do I take that chance? Do I stay in Chicago, or do I move to the suburbs?” says Craig Rupp, CEO of Sabanto, an agricultural-technology startup with 10 employees in an office several blocks from the scene of the shooting. “I get asked (by potential hires): ‘I don’t have to live in Chicago, do I?’ It wasn’t a question before. It is now.

The leaders Crain’s spoke with struck themes similar to business owners who contacted CWBChicago last year to express frustration with the effects of crime on their employees and customers, particularly in the Loop and River North.

“While I am not billionaire Ken Griffin announcing he may not keep his global headquarters downtown due to the violence, professionals and small business owners like myself also comprise a good chunk of what made downtown what it was,” said one, who operates a boutique law firm in the Loop.

There were 427 violent crimes in the Loop last year, just one fewer than 2019, when the city was firing on all gears before COVID. Last year, the Loop had 23 shooting incidents, equal to the number of incidents from 2013 through 2019 combined. There were 13 in 2020.

Another business owner, the head of a River North-based ad firm, took about a dozen employees out for dinner and drinks on the night of August 27. It was the first time they had been out as a group since COVID changed everything.

“Some used to take the L to work every day. Most started Ubering on office days,” he said. “They aren’t comfortable on the train.”

A few of his team members stayed out for a couple of extra rounds after he and others went home on that August night.

“They saw it happening.”

“It” was a brutal, four-minute-long beating and robbery of two men in the middle of State Street. CWBChicago later posted video of the attack in a report that prompted swift action by Chicago police.

CPD recorded 248 violent crime cases in River North last year, up from 171 in 2020. That puts it in the ballpark of recent pre-COVID years, albeit with far fewer shoppers, diners, workers, tourists, and commuters. The neighborhood had 13 shooting incidents last year. By comparison, there were a total of 16 shooting incidents in the eight years from 2014 through 2020.

“We’re having serious conversations about what’s next,” the exec said. “The mayor and whoever can say everything’s safe, but when we have responsible adults unwilling to ride transit and seeing [the attack] with their own eyes, that doesn’t wash. It doesn’t pass the b*llshit test.”

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