Rosemont mall owner could get option for land to expand

The owner of the Fashion Outlets of Chicago mall in Rosemont could formally obtain an option in the coming months to acquire land that would allow it to expand, village officials said Wednesday.

Representatives of the village and mall owner Macerich may draft an option agreement in the next 30 to 60 days that would essentially secure Macerich's right of first refusal for village-owned property to the east of the mall.

The Rosemont Theatre now sits on that land, and Mayor Brad Stephens has said in the past - and reiterated Wednesday - that he wouldn't mind bulldozing the theater to make room for a mall addition.

Talk of expanding the two-story, 538,000-square-foot indoor mall surfaced in April 2015, when Macerich CEO Art Coppola hinted at the possibility in a quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts.

It's possible the mall could grow to some 800,000 square feet, Stephens said.

He said the Santa Monica, California-based company would have to pay the village a fee to obtain the option, which would secure the company's ability to plan for and market the property. The option wouldn't bind Macerich to an eventual purchase.

If the company does decide to expand, the mayor estimated it could be another four to five years before Macerich and the village ink a redevelopment agreement and construction begins.

The mall, located at Balmoral Avenue and the Tri-State Tollway, opened in July 2013 with more than 100 retailers, and now has more than 130, with the openings of Nordstrom Rack, Calvin Klein Underwear and DavidsTea in recent months. More than 97 percent of the mall space is occupied, according to a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission reported Monday.

One reason why Rosemont is willing to part ways with its 22-year-old theater in exchange for a bigger mall is the sales-tax revenue the latter generates.

Fashion Outlets alone was responsible for bringing in about $9 million in sales tax dollars to the village in 2016, out of $14.7 million raised villagewide, officials said.

The mall generated $772 worth of sales per square foot in 2016, up from $734 at the end of 2015, according to Macerich's SEC filing.

The Rosemont mall ranked ninth in sales out of 48 shopping centers in Macerich's portfolio.

As for the theater, located at River Road and Balmoral Avenue, Stephens said a new theater to replace it could be built in another part of town. He said the size would be considerably smaller than the existing 4,200-seat venue, since most theaters in Chicago have between 1,800 and 2,500 seats.

Were the village to build a new theater, officials would also seek to partner with an entertainment firm that would book its tour schedule there, Stephens said.

A Macerich spokesperson on Wednesday didn't return calls seeking comment.

Fashion Outlets expansion could mean bulldozer for Rosemont Theatre

The 22-year-old Rosemont Theatre could eventually face the bulldozer if the neighboring Fashion Outlets of Chicago expands, village officials say. Daily Herald File Photo
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