Stratford Square Mall is a large, super-regional center serving west and northwest-suburban Chicagoland. Located in the village of Bloomingdale, the mall is about 30 miles from downtown Chicago. With 5 anchor slots and 1.3 million square feet of leasable space, Stratford Square is one of the larger malls in the Chicago region; however, the mall has faced recent struggles as it adapts to the economic downturn and general decline of large, enclosed malls nationwide. Opened on March 9, 1981, Stratford Square Mall was the end result of a planning strategy from one of suburban Chicago’s oldest settlements. Bloomingdale, which was located on maps as far back as the 1840s, is so old that the origin of its name is a mystery. The early settlers were German farmers, and Church services were held in German in the village as late as the 1960s.
The third cluster of retail in Effingham is located along US 45/Banker Street to the south of downtown. This area is the least convenient to the interstates, and is not as successful as the strip around Exit 160. It serves locals in and around Effingham, and has also seen the most turnover and vacancy in the area. This cluster is anchored by a small enclosed mall, Village Square Mall.
Ford City Mall is Chicago’s last remaining in-city regional mall. Located on the far southwest side of the city at 76th Street and Cicero Avenue in the West Lawn neighborhood, just south of Midway Airport, Ford City has a storied past. The site where Ford City Mall now stands was originally a defense plant, constructed during World War II. During the height of the war, a total of 10 buildings were constructed – the largest, Building 4, was over 62 acres in size. The entire site was 432 acres, and was used to make aircraft engines for the war effort, including those for the B-29 Bomber. The northern part of the former factory site remained industrial, and the southern section of Building 4 was partially demolished and refashioned into two separate retail buildings, both of which opened for business in 1965 as Ford City Mall. The north retail building, North Mall, was made into a strip mall, anchored by a Jewel Supermarket, a bowling facility, toy shop, and a small cinema.
Brickyard Mall, which opened in March 1977 on Chicago’s northwest side, was one of two regional, suburban-style shopping malls constructed in the city – the other was Ford City Mall on Chicago’s south side, which opened in 1965. Three other regional malls are, however, literally within a stone’s throw of the city limits – Lincolnwood Town Center, Harlem-Irving Plaza, and Evergreen Plaza all are located either directly across the street from the city or just blocks from it. Brickyard Mall enjoyed a modicum of success through the 1980s, but in the 1990s its viability met opposition as neighborhood demographics changed and competition from other malls outmoded it.
In the mall-crazy late 1970s, a developer decided that one mall wasn’t enough for little Bloomington-Normal, and made plans to build a second enclosed mall on the same strip. Located just a mile north of Eastland Mall along Veterans Parkway/Old Route 66, the College Hills Mall opened in August 1980 with anchor Carson Pirie Scott and a single-level T-shaped corridor of stores. The second anchor, Montgomery Ward, opened about a month later, also in 1980, and a third anchor, Target, opened in 1982.
Recently I’ve been following coverage of some pretty extensive renovations taking place at Lincoln Mall, a long-beleagured super-regional mall in south suburban Chicagoland. Initially I was excited at the prospect of even a modicum of success here, especially considering I’ve never seen the mall even close to its potential. I first visited Lincoln Mall about a decade ago, after it fell in the toilet but before it drowned. I recently re-visited for the first time after some of the renovations have materialized, and was extremely dismayed – both by the progress of the renovations and also by a personal, not-so-fun experience I had there.
We thought we’d switch it up a bit with the mall postings and fire off a whole bunch of them at once, in an urban setting: downtown Chicago.
The following six malls are the largest, and most prominent, cohesive retail centers in downtown Chicago, which we’re defining as extending beyond the Loop and including the neighborhoods River North and Streeterville because, well, they’re downtown for all practical purposes.
Forest Park Mall was a 400,000 square-foot enclosed mall located along Roosevelt Road just west of Harlem Avenue, and about a quarter of a mile south of I-290. Helmed by the same developer who created Ford City Mall on Chicago’s southwest side, Forest Park Mall – just like Ford City – was also a redevelopment project that converted an old factory into a shopping center – albeit on a smaller scale.
Oakbrook Center is, according to its website, the largest open-air mall in the entire country; and, at over 2 million square feet of leasable space, it’s a believable claim. It was, also according to the website, voted as the number one shopping destination in all of Illinois.
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, [...]