Hawthorn 2.0 developer seeks bigger Phase 2, with apartments, stores, restaurants at old Carson's

Ten months after the former Sears anchor store at Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills was demolished and construction of a transformative change on the east side of the mall began, it's hard to envision what the area used to look like.

But even as luxury apartments and an open-air Main Street-style retail center called Hawthorn Row emerge as the initial piece of the $252 million Hawthorn 2.0 plan, approvals are being sought for a second phase that's bigger and better than first proposed, with a mixed-use development centered on the site of the former Carson's store.

"The new plans create a development that is significantly larger than the original project," said Jeff Rutzen, general manager of the 1970s-era mall that will be substantially different when the dust settles.

Vernon Hills' advisory planning and zoning commission will consider the changes during a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. today at village hall, 290 Evergreen Drive.

Mall owner Centennial Real Estate says it has increased its commitment and is seeking approvals for an expanded vision of the massive project. The village board in January agreed to forward the concept for detailed review and a public hearing but will have the final say.

The old Carson's store, on the southeast side of the mall, is being demolished, and Dave & Buster's will be relocated but remain open. Demolishing Carson's will facilitate the construction of 250 luxury apartments and create a larger outdoor public plaza and better flow into the mall, according to Rutzen.

Work at the cleared Carson's site also will provide a new "grand entrance" to the shopping center, which in the end would have significantly more retail, restaurant and entertainment space surrounding the exterior of the open-air Hawthorn Row streetscape, Rutzen said.

The overall mall plan had always included 561 luxury apartments: "The Domaine," a 311-unit luxury apartment development in two, four-story buildings by Hawthorn Row on the east side of the mall, and 250 more apartments in a building that would have been added south of the Sears location in the second phase. That building is at the Carsons location in the latest proposal.

What is known as vertical construction of The Domaine and Hawthorn Row began simultaneously last July as the foundation of the mall repurposing.

As part of the expanded plan, 28,000 square feet of retail and dining space would be added to Hawthorn Row. The Domaine is expected to be complete in early 2023 but will open in phases this fall.

The 48,000-square-foot Hawthorn Row would be on the ground level of apartments and include "best-in-class retail," to open in the second quarter of 2023, Rutzen said.

Outdoor dining options and a pocket park are part of the plans.

Rutzen said plans also call for removing about one-third of the mall's interior space along the Sears end of the center, including the food court. When complete, the interior portion of the mall will begin at the Center Park and continue through the Macy's and JCPenney wings, Rutzen said.

Pending approvals, work on phase two of Hawthorn 2.0 is expected to begin in 2023 and be complete in early 2025.

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  The former Carson's anchor store at Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills is being demolished. The mall owner is proposing to expand the redevelopment of the Carson's site. Mick Zawislak/
Owners of Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills and their residential partners are seeking approvals to relocate what was to have been the second phase of development from the former Sears anchor site to the Carson's site. Courtesy of Village of Vernon Hills
  A luxury apartment building is well underway as part of the initial phase of the redevelopment of Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills. Mick Zawislak/
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