A synthetic ice rink could soon fill a vacant space once occupied by a clothing store at Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills.
Globus Inc., of Highland Park wants to repurpose a second-floor space as Rink in the Mall, said to be a new concept in the suburbs. The space previously occupied by a rue21 store is across from the food court and just outside mall anchor JCPenney.
Alena and Kevin Jotkus presented their plan Wednesday during a public hearing of the village's advisory planning and zoning commission. Globus has been in business since 2002, but this is the Highland Park company's first venture of this type, they said. It would be geared to families and children.
"With an attraction like a synthetic ice rink, we will not only offer them a good time but there also will be a place they can stay active and get an experience they won't forget," Alena Jotkus said.
The matter needs to be considered by the planning and zoning commission because a special use permit is required for a children's recreational facility in a business district.
The 54-foot by 24-foot rink would consist of 56 fitted panels of a synthetic, self-lubricated material called XTRAICE. The rink could accommodate up to 20 people at a time.
According to information provided to the commission, Vernon Hills would be the first suburb with a synthetic ice rink. A similar rink was installed in the Sheraton Hotel in Chicago for an event organized by a local hockey association, and at one time had been located on the 94th Floor of the John Hancock Center.
Commission Chairman Hal Morris questioned the rink's fit in a regional mall.
"That's the concern I have. It's not with the product, it's not with the concept," Morris said. "It's really more the location it's going."
Proponents said the rink would provide another local venue for entertainment, leisure and family time, and offer a unique attraction for Hawthorn Dave & Buster's and AMC Hawthorn 12 theater are non-retail uses already in business at the mall.
"I think it's going to be another addition for us to say, 'Hey. this is why we're different. We're still here. We're your regional mall. This is why we're staying viable,'" said Tamara Esp, specialty leasing manager for Hawthorn owner Centennial Real Estate.
Centennial is working to bring new retailers to Hawthorn, Esp added without elaborating. The 1.3-million-square-foot mall is less than 8 percent vacant, she said.
Saying they would rather see the rink than an empty space, commissioners recommended approval 6-0, with Morris voting present. The proposal now goes to the village board for possible approval.