Golf Mill Shopping Center; Niles, Illinois

Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL 

Niles, Illinois is an inner-ring suburb of Chicago located about 15 miles from the Loop.  With nearly 30,000 residents, Niles is a typical inner-ring suburb with a large post-war housing stock and lots of mid-mod artifacts as well as the rather kitschy replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, built in 1934. 

The main commercial street in Niles is Milwaukee Avenue, (IL Route 21) which slices through middle of the village from northwest to southeast.  The anchor of this commercial strip is the 1 million square-foot Golf Mill Shopping Center, located at the north edge of the village at the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and Golf Road.  

The story of Golf Mill Center goes all the way back to the 1950s.  In 1959, Milwaukee-Golf Development began construction on a project to bring a large-scale shopping center to 88 acres of farmland at the corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Golf Road.  The center opened in 1960, and was named, rather appropriately, after the intersection on which it sits.  A two-level, 213,000 square-foot Sears anchored the open-air shopping center with 400,000 square feet of retail space on both the north and south sides.  According to Mall Hall of Fame, some early stores included Hillman’s, Lytton’s, Walgreen Drug, Lamm Shoes, Richman Brothers, Lerner Shops, a Woolworth 5 and 10 and National supermarket.  There was also a single-screen movie theatre and a Sears Auto Center. 

Golf Mill Shopping Center Target in Niles, ILIn 1966, JCPenney tacked on a two-level, 190,000 square-foot store at the south end of Golf Mill Shopping Center.  More interestingly, at the north end of the mall a live theatre venue called the Mill Run Playhouse and Millionaire’s Lounge opened in 1965.  The Millionaire’s Lounge became a notorious gangster hangout throughout the 1960s and 1970s.  If only those walls could talk!

The open-air Golf Mill Center enjoyed success during the 1970s and into the 1980s, even as larger enclosed malls such as Woodfield and Randhurst operated nearby; meanwhile, the much larger nearby outdoor venue Old Orchard Center solidified a grasp on tenanting upscale and exclusive retailers for itself, attracting shoppers from across the region.  In order to differentiate itself from Old Orchard, and compete with the others, the owners of Golf Mill Center decided to fully enclose the mall in 1985.  During this renovation, the Mill Run Playhouse was demolished after closing in 1983, and an 11-stall food court opened near the front center of the mall along Milwaukee Avenue.  In addition, Chicago-based Mainstreet Stores was added as a third anchor to the north end of the mall where Mill Run Playhouse was; however, in 1989 this location was re-branded as Kohls because Kohls acquired Mainstreet in order to enter the Chicago market. 

Once the enclosed mall was built, the mall became a rather unique design anomaly – not just in the Chicago area, either, as Golf Mill is one of only a handful of malls we can think of where the in-line space is “bisected” by a large anchor – Sears.  In addition, the cylindrical Golf Mill office tower – designed to look like the surface of a giant golf ball – hinges on the mall in an interesting and unique fashion.  The elevators to access the office tower come out right into the mall, on a short side wing leading from the main mall to an entrance near the south end and JCPenney.  There are also some neat skylights where one can peer up at the office tower looming above from within the mall.  We can think of at least a few malls with attached office towers and bisecting anchors, but rarely are they together and as interesting as this mall. 

Throughout the past decade, numerous changes have taken place at Golf Mill Center in order to continue viability for the aging mall.  In 1998, a 100,000 square-foot one level Target store was added to the north end of Golf Mill Center, joining Kohls at that end and becoming a popular boon to the mall.  Then, in 2004, Rouse Company, the Maryland based owner of the mall, was acquired by Chicago-based General Growth Properties, who continue to own and manage the mall as of 2008. 

Golf Mill Shopping Center directory in Niles, ILIn 2006, General Growth decided to embark upon an expansion and renovation of the 20 year old enclosed mall structure.  The first addition was a 40,000 square-foot Value City Furniture mini-anchor, which opened in the north half of the mall in early 2005.  Prior to the Value City opening, most of the north half of the mall was cleared of stores in order to prepare the space.  In addition, a Kerasotes 12 theatre multiplex at the back of the mall opened in November 2006, and throughout 2006 and 2007 the exterior and interior of Golf Mill Center received numerous upgrades.  Curiously, though, most of these $8 million upgrades have taken place in only half the mall, between Sears and JCPenney, where a brighter floor was installed and the older light posts were removed.  The north half of the mall, between Sears and Kohls/Target, wasn’t renovated at all and is currently completely dead aside from the anchors.  Also, a popular California-based sit-down chain restaurant Elephant Bar opened in the food court, and the childrens’ play area near JCPenney was removed and relocated to the theatre wing.   

For now, Golf Mill Shopping Center is a viable mall and despite competition and upgrades, it continues to serve a very important niche in the middle class near-north and near-northwest suburbs of Chicago.  Now that Randhurst has closed for redevelopment, the nearest malls providing competition are Old Orchard and Northbrook, which are upscale, and Woodfield, which is a considerable distance and serves a different niche altogether.  So, even if some rather harsh Yelpers disagree, Golf Mill will soldier on.

We visited Golf Mill Shopping Center over the years and took the pictures featured here.  The first set, from October 2001, features a randomly stumbled upon concert by pop-wonder Brooke Allison.  So, enjoy that, and as usual, feel free to leave your own comments and experiences with the mall.

October 2001:

Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center directory in Niles, IL

Golf Mill Shopping Center Kohls in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL

Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center Brooke Allison in Niles, IL

Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center JCPenney in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL

Golf Mill Shopping Center office tower in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL

Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL

Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL 

September 2008:

Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL

Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL 

Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL

Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL

November 2008:

Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL

Golf Mill Shopping Center Sears in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles, IL

 

47 Responses to “Golf Mill Shopping Center; Niles, Illinois”

  1. FIFTY VACANCIES?!

    http://www.ggp.com/Content/Data/PDF/575-LP1.pdf

    Holy crap, that’s terrible.

    The renovated portion looks nice, too bad Sears kind of killed the other side.

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  2. To think just a few years back (2004) when I first visited the mall, it seemed to be doing okay. Though the remodel year threw me off. You’d swear it looked more like from the late 1970s, what with how dark some areas of the mall were prior to the 2007 do-over.

    50 vacancies though….ouch! That renovation hasn’t done squat, and frankly, looking at the pics of the remodel, it looks even more stale than its original mid-1980s look with all the chrome and little marquee lights around the skylights. (You can still see a bit of this leftover in the unrenovated ‘big-boxed half of the mall.

    I think the anchors do fine enough on their own…..they’re popular in the area. That mall though….don’t know how much longer it’ll last.

    Thanks for a look at the updated mall. I did get there this past year on my annual trek to Chi-town, but didn’t get in the renovated area. I only had enough time to sprint through the big-box portion.

    With the value City gone, they may as well just tear out the mall concourse linking the three anchors at the north end and landscape it.

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  3. Incredible find! Old and new…clash. With Value City…gone…what will happen? Still nice, though.

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  4. you need to double check your facts regarding the recent history….

    - GGP currently does not own this mall and it was not part of the Rouse acquisition in 2004. GGP is the manager of the mall on behalf of another party.

    - The play area was not removed….it was relcoated to the theater wing.

    Thanks for the rest of the history, though.

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  5. Value City hasn’t closed the furniture stores. I think Schottenstein still controls those. Golf-Mill is still listed as open.

    This was an odd mall, even long ago (I remmeber seeing in in the early 70s). It was built at the end of the “plaza” era and malls would have been on the drawing board when it opened. Single anchor “plazas” were still common, but diminishingly so. It sounds like the original developers weren’t very forward thinking in terms of site planning. The hinterland for this mall would still have been growing at that point and it was common to build large plazas in stages, with expectations of more stores later-on. The area is post-WWII, but not “inner ring” in the same way as Evanston, OakPark/River Forest, Cicero, etc. which predated WWII and had some of the earliest suburban branches. It’s not even comparable to Northlake, Hillside, Evergreen Park, etc.

    Golf-Mill would have done well because the nearest Sears stores were relatively far away at Six Corners in Chicago and later Woodfield, as well as Harlem & Lake. Full-line JC Penney stores would have been even further away until the 80s. Until the advent of big boxes and off-price retail, a Sears/Penney mall would have had a solid middle class clientele that could carry mid-range and even some moderatly upscale other stores.

    Old Orchard has always been a very different draw and its more likely that Randhurst and, perhaps, Woodfield would have been greater competition and drawn people from the growing end of Golf-Mill’s trading area. The Six Corners area in Chicago has experienced a real rebirth in the last 20 years and probably has hurt Golf-Mill’s ability to draw shoppers from NW Chicago.

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  6. when gm was built the ancor space that is today jcpenney wes a one and only branch of evenston based lords department store thay closed allmost right away. penneys took there store and exspanded it . years a go a freind of mine managed the golf mill gap the mall had had problems with high return rates, it seams that the locals wood go to woodfield or old orchard and then come do all ther returns close to home witch is what maid his store unprofitable and the gap eventrly closed there not vary long after he left that store.

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  7. @ mall rat:

    The mall’s own website indicates it’s owned and managed by General Growth. http://www.golfmill.com/html/mallprograms.asp about halfway down. “This is a part of national partnership between General Growth Properties, (Golf Mill Shopping Center’s owner/management company)”

    Numerous other pages on the web indicate it was also owned by Rouse until 2004 as well. I changed the part about the childrens’ play area. Can someone find some reference that indicates the mall is owned by someone other than GGP? We do want to be accurate here. Thanks!

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  8. Interesting find about the Skytron in the food court in that it is the same model thet was at The Mall of Memphis. Is it still hanging at GM?

    http://www.mallofmemphis.org/Main/IceChalet

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  9. Hmm…bisecting anchors and office towers? Sounds like the Galleria to me. This doesn’t look like a bad mall at all…needs a little love, maybe a larger food court. Sears isn’t that bad…I don’t feel awkward walking through a Sears (that couldn’t be said for Saks, for instance, in the Galleria’s case).

    The question is the health of the anchors inside.

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  10. Kerasotes Theatres has an interesting history throughout the midwest. Most of there theatres were in places like Indianapolis & other similar sized cities. then they went on a building binge, constructing megaplexes called “showplace’s” with 12 to 18 screens. When AMC baught out Loews Cineplex, Kerasotes was able to buy many former prime locations of Loews plus add locations like Golf Mills to expand there footprint in Chicagoland. In adition they picked up theatres around Denver from Mann Theatres when they exited that market. Today Kerasotes has over 600 screens & is still growing with new locations in Glenview & Skokie.

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    SEAN Reply:

    @SEAN, Update all be it late, Kerasotes Sold all but three theatres to AMC IN January 2009. A hanfull of them were resold to Regal & other circuits. Kerasotes still owns Icon locations in Chicago & Minneapolis as well as a 14-screen theatre in Secaucus NJ, wich were excluted from the merger agreement.

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  11. I’m seriously starting to believe Target was originally stand-alone. Although news items do indicate 1998, the fact you one can see Target’s exterior from the interior the mall really bothers me.

    This is the exterior:
    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_AcUdTl7Aq-s/R5ez13i7DLI/AAAAAAAADhg/jSnkpubHvP8/s1600-h/Target+Golf+Mill_Cook+Cty.jpg

    Now look to the mall entrance to the left, and see the bricks and striping!
    http://www.labelscar.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/golf-mill-27.jpg

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    billymac72 Reply:

    The Target was never a standalone. The Mill-Run Theater used to stand where it and Kohl’s are now. When the indoor portion of the mall was built in 1986 (the interior seen in your second photo), the area where Target is now was indeed a sporting goods store (I recall Sportmart, but someone mentioned Herman’s. That might be right). It was completely torn down with the Target built in its place. They kept that ugly indoor mall hallway for some reason.

    I went to see “Stand By Me” at the movie theater with some friends when they were building the indoor mall. We walked through it after the movie (it was wide open) and smoked cigarettes. I remember sitting in the middle of it, looking around and thinking to myself how ugly it looked. I’ve never liked that mall. When it opened, there was a lot of “Totally 80s!” neon and mirror. A lot of the same fixtures were still there until recently.

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  12. WOW A Chicago mall I’ve never been too!. Too far away for a south suburbanite like me. Mall looks anicent, needs a major overhaul or redevelopment. Most 2 anchors malls have died and are in the process (North Park, South Commons). They should add a Carson’s or Macy’s to the east or west, which ever side and fit an anchor. Pics remind me of North Riverside Mall, an old outdated mall stuck in the stagnet inner-ring suburbs, headed down the road to abandonment.

    Kerasotes Theaters should not confused with GKC Theaters (George Kerasotes Co.) A rivalry with the Kerasotes family split the family business into 2 seperate operaters. GKC was the main movie theater company in Central Illinois until it was swallowed up by Carmike.

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  13. I’ve been to North Riverside, and in the 5 years i’ve been in there, I’ve watched it slowly slide downhill. A remodel during the 1990s that added a parking deck to the southeast quadrant, butting against the east walls of the mall and JCPenney, to suppliment the supposed crowds for the new cinemas and food court expansion, and filling in the former Wards with a Sears, haven’t done anything.

    There’s an entry for North Park on here too….search for it.

    You’re going to see most 2-3 anchor malls in Chicagoland pretty much done in over the next few years. The only ones that’ll survive are way out in the fringe suburbs….your Woodfields, Gurnees, Hawthorns, Fox Valleys and the like. Actually you can expand that to the whole country……most malls of this ilk will all be done for, succumbing to big boxes.

    Not TRYING to paint a doom-and-gloom scenario here, but you have to take into consideration the dwindling amount of national chains left to fill the mammoth amount of room in some of these malls, the fact that the department stores on their own do well enough…..you could seal off the mall entry points from these stores and they’d still do a ripping business.

    Wait till 2009 folks, you’re going to see another mass exodus of clothing retailers. Mid-1990s all over again, but it’ll be more painful this time around, as there’ll be no one to replace the stores that may pull out (we don’t know who yet is suffering this holiday season, and won’t till the numbers roll in come the New Year). Back in the mid 1990s, your Merry Go Rounds, Chess Kings, Mariannes, and the like were replaced by Abercrombie and Fitch, PacSun, and Aeropostales.

    This will be a hard year forthcoming for retailing….a huge shakeup and shake-out of chains. It’s already been happening since the start of this year.

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  14. I have been worrying about this mall for years. It looks very dated from the outside as you drive past it.

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  15. About the Skytron display someone mentioned — we had one in Madison Square Mall in Huntsville back in 2002 and I’d seen them in several Nashville, TN malls in 2001. During 2003, practically all of the Skytron displays were dead and were later removed. The thing was run with rear-projection displays and computer projectors were used. The bulbs would burn out. Ours displayed “needs bulb replacement” messages for a while before going dark. As far as I could tell, the machines played a short DVD (45 minutes or so) over and over. If you sat in the food court, “Superman (It’s Not Easy”)” by Five For Fighting would be seen twice while eating a meal because it appeared twice in the 45 minute DVD. Everything was 4 by 3 material being dumbly stretched to 16 by 9, making everything look stupid and unappealing. There was the annnoying “man with question marks on his suit” ad (Lesko?). Even videos with a 16 by 9 ratio were letterboxed 4 by 3 and stretched to 16 by 9. I’m convinced that Skytron was some marketing person’s “bright idea” and that person never thought that anything would require maintenance, and knew nothing about video at all. It died a quick death and after all of the bulbs failed and they were eventually taken down, I don’t think anyone was sad to see these things go.

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  16. The Target was indeed built later on. Prior to this, that corner housed a much smaller Herman’s sporting goods store, which was the first shop on the right as you walked in the mall entrance by MainStreet/Kohls.

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  17. That Lane Bryant store has an interesting storefront. The mall itself, doesn’t look half bad.

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  18. Pretty good write up on Golf Mill, Prange Way. I kept thinking for a very long time that this would be a good candidate for doing an entry on for labelscar, and good to see you finally covered this mall.

    What’s unfortunate about the recent renovation was as much as I thought it might do more for GM’s viability(since I thought the renovation gave it a much needed, newer look), I don’t think it’s attracted as many national chains as I though it would to it(other than Deb Shops opening a store here). FYE closed their store here in early 2008, so I don’t know if that’s a hint to come that as more chains struggle, that this mall may struggle more with keeping spaces filled, or what. I’m definitely aware that the north wing inbetween Sears and Target has usually been near vacant for as long as I can remember, other than a pizza place and a handful of other stores in that wing that closed in the early 2000s. GM was very lucky to get VCF to open in that north wing, and if you consider that wing’s history of having many vacancies, it’s a good fit for it.

    I’ll also add as someone who grew up and still lives(for now) in the Chicago area, and has active knowledge of retail trends in the Chicago area, it is NOT upscale shopping centers/malls like Old Orchard, Woodfield, Northbrook, etc. that this mall competes against. It’s always been more a middle-class mall, and still is. In fact, I’d actually say the former Randhurst Mall, and Harlem-Irving Plaza was/is this mall’s main competition, and with HIP’s recent renovation and the announcement of JCPenney opening a store there in the future, it’ll be interesting to see if stores stay put at GM, or if some choose to pull out. Especially considering HIP also has done renovations and store additions of its own in very recent years, and many of the same chains have locations in both malls.

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  19. On one of my few visits to this mall in 2001 or 2002, we were standing in the Sears Auto store separate from the mall and someone yelled for us to turn around and look: a dark funnel cloud was touching down on it. Dozens of cars in the parking lot had their windows blown in (ours was spared). We heard later a few stores had to close for roof repair, including Victoria’s Secret.

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    Allan of IL(Allan) Reply:

    @hm, This is a very interesting event that occurred, and I surprisingly missed this comment for way too long. Did this funnel cloud just blow over the south portion of the mall towards JCPenney, and only cause damage in that hallway/corridor of the mall, plus in adjoining parking lots to both the east and west?

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    hm Reply:

    @Allan of IL(Allan),
    Sorry I haven’t been back to this site in a long time. I found an article in the October 14, 2001 Daily Herald that mentions the event:
    “In Niles, the storm damaged a section of roof at the Golf Mill Shopping Center and sent pieces of the skylight crashing in, injuring six people. None of the injuries were serious, police said.
    Witnesses say a tornado hit the mall’s J.C. Penney store, sending debris flying and damaging cars, businesses and trees in the area.
    Bill Meek, the sales manager at Golf Mill Ford, was standing outside around 4:45 p.m. when he saw a funnel cloud appear in the sky about 100 yards in front of him.
    “The wind was blowing 100 miles an hour and it hit Penneys right on the roof. It tore the roof right off,” he said.
    After seeing two small trees fly past him, Meek said he ran for cover. Later, he returned to find windows blown out of in cars in the mall parking lot and a scene of chaos and destruction.
    “It was unbelievable,” he said. “I guarantee you, it was a tornado.”
    National Weather Service officials say there was nothing on their radar to indicate a tornado touched down, and they believe it’s more likely the damage was caused by a strong wind gust.
    The mall was evacuated safely but Police Cmdr. Dan Halley said several stores and the food court suffered broken windows and water damage.
    The south end of the mall will be closed today but the Sears, Kohls and Target stores will be open. ”

    Your public library can get you a copy of the article. :)
    It WAS a funnel cloud!!

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  20. Just to let you know that the lease plan off the GGP website that has spaces labeled “Vacant” may actually have temporary tenants occupying the space & just aren’t listed on the plan.

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  21. I cannot believe that LensCrafters (in one of the pics above) of all places had Sensormatic door alarms! How pathetic…

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  22. One more comment about Golf Mill that I didn’t mention in my original comment about it, and only remembered now that I wanted to say: I REALLY WISH GGP had at least given the electronic sign at the corner of Golf/Milwaukee some sort of modern update, or at least had added the new logo of the mall to that sign. It’s very strange to me that they didn’t, considering they did a decent job of updating the signs with the new logo on the Milwaukee Ave. side of the mall. I’m also guessing too considering GGP’s financial problems, that it won’t occur in the immediate future, but I’d certainly would not mind a surprise and be proven wrong here.

    I should add too that even though I don’t live close to this mall, I always seem(for whatever reason) to make it here on average at least once or twice every 1-2 years. So that’s why I was extra-thrilled to see Prange wrote an entry on this place.

    As for Pat747′s question(since I noticed it was unanswered), the Skytron screen you mentioned in your comment was removed during the renovation that was completed over a year ago.

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  23. Interesting piece of mall trivia…
    Golf Mill had (at least up to around 2000) its own radio station! A low frequency station called Mall Radio that broadcast on either 88.3 or 88.5 fm, and that could be heard in the parking lot and on the adjacent roads!
    It was just a tape of ads for stores in the mall played on a loop (“Mention this ad with your purchase and receive a 10% discount”).
    I always found that cool!

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  24. To john gallo above:

    on December 18th, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    when gm was built the ancor space that is today jcpenney wes a one and only branch of evenston based lords department store thay closed allmost right away. penneys took there store and exspanded it . years a go a freind of mine managed the golf mill gap the mall had had problems with high return rates, it seams that the locals wood go to woodfield or old orchard and then come do all ther returns close to home witch is what maid his store unprofitable and the gap eventrly closed there not vary long after he left that store.

    Please take an English class.

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  25. We used to go to the Mill Run Theatre back in the 70′s when I was in high school. It was a long drive from the south suburbs but well worth the quality shows we used to see. Is the theatre still in operation?

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  26. I had to go to that mall from my store in Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, MI in 1996 to to train a new manager of the Pretzel Time. Sears cutting right through the middle of the mall was one of the weirdest things I have seen in a mall. And I have seen many malls!

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  27. It should probably be mentioned that the original movie theaters for this mall (Golf Mill Theaters) were a detached unit in the SE corner of the parking lot. The building only housed 3 theaters (I think), but the main theater was massive, including balconies on either side of the projector room. Many movies were snuck into by having someone on the inside hold the back exit door open. It closed I would guess around 2000, as I do remember seeing a movie there as late as 1999. An XSport Fitness currently stands where the theaters once were. There was also a shoddy bowling alley right there, I think just to the west of the theaters.

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  28. wow am I ever dissapointed in this mall remodeling!
    I used to live in Des Plaines when I was in Jr. High in 1969 and I used to shop and hang out at Golf Mill.
    I thought it was the coolest “mall” and I have very fond memories of walking around and shopping OUTSIDE! I loved the diner where you could sit in a booth next to a window and people watch (in my case it was “boy watching”). I remember the chocolate candy shop also. I am planning a trip to Niles and surrounding suburbs later this year and I was anxiously planning on going back to Golf Mill and reminiscing. I saw the pictures of the shops in the ENCLOSED mall and I got very sad! It doesn’t look anything like the old Golf Mill that I remember.
    It’s too bad. I understand that it probably needed to be remodeled but I don’t think it needed to be enclosed and TOTALLY changed – to be TOTALLY UNRECOGNIZABLE! I still plan on going to Golf Mill when I visit because I just have to see it for myself
    (probably for the last time). I am so very sad….

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  29. To anyone that has shopped at Golf Mill in the 60′s and 70′s….
    Is there ANY THING that is the same and hasn’t changed at Golf Mill?

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  30. Very little is the same from how I remember it. The black Golf Mill sign on the corner of Greenwood and Golf has been there as long I can recall. Structurally, the JC Penny’s building looks the same, the white “golf ball” office tower, and the Sears building. Sears, however, used to be a lot nicer (probably true of all Sears!). They moved the doors, for some odd reason, from the middle where they used to be, off to the sides. Golf Mill Theaters is, of course, now a fitness center, but the exterior is still somewhat the same in parts (I took some pictures before they redid it. Maybe I’ll dig them up & post them). Virtually everything else is different. Nothing remains north of Sears. The Toys R Us across the street has been there as long as I remember (bought my Star Wars figures there!), but the fascade has changed completely.

    The whole Golf Mill area was always a tad seedy, imo, but my fondest memories are from the days of the original movie theater & outdoor mall, Bowl & Dine, the original Pinocchios, Axle Roller Rink, Lawrey’s Records, Mil-Run Theater, Millionaire’s Club, Golden Bear, Burger King, Ponderosa, etc.

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    Stew Cohen Reply:

    @billymac72,

    Do you recall Radio Days at Golf Mill? Many of the Chicago and suburban radio stations brought their announcers to Radio Days and they set up tables and gave away balloons, t-shirts, and their deejays autographed pictures. I was working at WYEN Radio at the time in 1976 and greeted dozens of people, then walked around myself, seeing such announcers as John Records Landecker of WLS and Steve Dahl of WDAI. Stew Cohen, WZSR-FM.

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    billymac72 Reply:

    @Stew Cohen,

    No, I did not experience that, unfortunately, although I’m obviously familiar with those radio personalities. I didn’t hear of Dahl until he was on the Loop. 70s radio was a ton of fun….what you describe was very typical of the time. Kind of a lost art, I’m afraid. I think we all felt more connected to those local stations then. Who doesn’t recall picking up those WLS top 40 charts at record stores, checking off the songs you either had on 45, LP or hadn’t heard yet? Much less passive than today’s entertainment.

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  31. Does anyone know whether General Growth Properties still owns Golf Mill? If so, are rennovations completely done? It’s a pity. I love the outdoor malls!

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  32. Some comments to others.

    Sears at GM is actually quite a bit better than it used to be.

    The old movie theater kept declining the last few years. It was time to go. New, detached multiplex now.

    Correct. It was Hermann’s sporting goods on the north end. Not a great store; no great loss.

    In general, the current GM caters to lower middle-class customers, not so much middle-class anymore. Nothing wrong with that.

    People should be aware there’s a rougher element than before on this end of Niles. Some gang and druggie types. There’ve been several incidents at GM. Generally, you’re quite safe. But don’t put yourself at risk either.

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  33. Responses to some comments:

    The new Kerasotes theater(ahem, Niles Showplace 12) is NOT detached, it’s connected to the west end of the mall, and was built over an old western entrance that led to the Greenwood Ave. side of the lot. If you’re talking about the old 3-screen theater(now Xsport Fitness, I was surprised back in the early 2000s they chose to only gut the building, and not tear it down), that was detached. Not to also mention it had a very similar design to another theater I frequented in my youth, Lincoln Village 7-9(renumbered from 1-3 to this after 1-6 were built in what, the early 90s/late 80s?) theaters(those theaters closed in 2001(?), were torn down, and replaced by Borders).

    For GGP still owning Golf Mill, I have not been able to figure out for sure if they sold it. It isn’t on the company’s regular site anymore, so my guess is that they likely sold the mall to another company. This wouldn’t shock me, since GGP is in bankruptcy. (am slightly surprised GGP hasn’t sold off Spring Hill, btw) The current logo on GM’s website is still the same from when GGP finished the Golf Mill renovations in 2007, so I’m still a little unsure here. If anyone knows the answer better than me, please don’t be afraid to step forward and post!

    Yes, the mall has had a very diverse and ethnic clientele for years, but is anyone really that surprised, considering the high number of immigrants that settled in Niles during the 90s and 2000s? Plus, the nearby shopping centers in the area are definitely not seedy(and of course many shops do cater to the nearby Korean and Indian population, so I’m not surprised to hear the ‘seedy’ comments). I guess I’m the rare white male who’s above average at accepting people of different races and ethnicities. Plus, enjoy Korean and Indian food too. *sigh*

    Finally, Meijer is about to move into the Value City space slightly west of here on Golf Rd., and this will be one of 2 stores(the other is in Orland Park) testing a slightly scaled-down store concept. I welcome them with open arms, considering I was a huge fan of shopping there when I briefly went to college outside of Chicago! Seedy area(alright I’ll give you perhaps that a few apartment complexes south of there are marginally seedy, but I still consider the overall area NOT dangerous) my arse….

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  34. I’m proud to announce all my pre-renovation(ahem, mid-renovation, as they were taken before it finished) Golf Mill pics are up on the Labelscar flickr group. I have a few more new pics I took last week that I’ve yet to upload. Jason and Ross also have my permission to post my Labelscar flickr pics onto this regular entry, as well.

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  35. billymac72 mentions that Sears changed the location if their entry doors from the center to each side. That’s inaccurate. The store opened in 1960 with the doors exactly where they are now. Been going to Sears in Golf Mill since 1962.

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    billymac72 Reply:

    @TOM,

    I trust your memory more than my own! If you say so, I believe you. That’s just one of those things that I could have sworn was how I remembered it. Funny how memory works.

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  36. billymac72 mentions that Sears changed the location of their entry doors from the center to each side. That’s inaccurate. The store opened in 1960 with the doors exactly where they are now. Been going to Sears in Golf Mill since 1962.

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  37. This mall is full of crappy little ma and pa stores. When they remodeled the mall, they ran out of money so it looks very dated on the other side of Sears. Not thast there is much to be seen on the other side. It’s really just a passage to Kohls, Target and Value City Furniture. The clientele has changed drastically over the years too. It is like the United Nations now. The better stores will never come to that mall, because they don’t see a profit to be made. The mall fills its space with these crappy little stores because it need the rent. The mall put in a nice sit down restuarant,It was called The Elephant Bar. It lasted maybe 2 years. It sits vacant now. My husband and I went there once. It was dead. However the food court was packed. Obviously not the right kind of clientele to support it. This mall is very depressing to walk around. I’d rather drive out to Woodfield!!

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  38. I remember Golf Mill really well and JCPenney there never changed.

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  39. I remember hanging out there in the mid-70s. There was a pond with the wooden wheel mill right outside of Sears on the East side. Also, our elementary school, Shelly Nathanson, always took field trips to Mill Run theatre when it was open for plays Remember seeing George Carlin there in the late 70s.

    The bowling alley had leagues on Saturday mornings for kids. It was a dive, but their pizza was classic cardboard bad pizza.

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  40. I work at this mall and have for 7 yrs. I also have some “insider” info on the remodel.
    A lot of the 8 million never was even allocated to the remodel. The North Mall was supposed to receive the same care as the rest but mysteriously, that never happened. Also, shoddy light fixtures have proven a financial drain as they break. The doors installed ( except at entrances facing Greenwood as these are still old ) break and parts must be ordered from overseas at a cost that is outrageous.Leaks abound everywhere, the roof is in dire need of a replacement, the small fountain that was supposed to be installed on the floor in center court was cut, rainwater surges cause floods through the floor under Tmobile. The mall was told they needed larger pipes but refused. The old Leather Plus is gone but had floods running down their windows. The air conditioning runs at a high temp, and heat at a low temp. The lights are on sometimes during broad daylight and off in the evening. Food court is losing buisnesses left and right only to have a local throw whatever in and see it fail. They recently lost New York & Co. and Debs with big holes there. Ross opened to much fanfare then turned into a dumpy mess….. It’s on the way out I must admit and it isn’t necessarily due to management although there is a TOO young assistant GM who is too stubborn to accept there are problems.

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