Daily Herald opinion: Towns take a crucial first step to spur redevelopment of struggling malls

Two suburban towns are refusing to sit idly by and watch the demise of their regional malls.

At one time, Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale and Spring Hill Mall, which straddles West Dundee and Carpentersville, were economic engines in their communities. They provided jobs and served as reliable sources of sales tax revenue.

But in the era of online shopping, Stratford Square and Spring Hill struggled to adapt and experienced a slow but steady loss of tenants.

Still, there is a reason to be hopeful for the future of both properties because of the efforts of Bloomingdale and West Dundee.

Earlier this month, Bloomingdale trustees agreed to resolve a condemnation lawsuit against the owner of Stratford and sign a deal to buy the remainder of the nearly deserted mall at Gary Avenue and Schick Road.

West Dundee officials, meanwhile, told our Alicia Fabbre that they expect to finalize the purchase of the rest of Spring Hill in February. The village already has acquired the shuttered Sears and Macy’s buildings at the mall.

Like West Dundee, Bloomingdale already spent millions of dollars to purchase former department store buildings at Stratford Square. The village previously acquired the former Carson’s, Burlington and Sears parcels and a strip of land along Springfield Drive.

Bloomingdale expects to spend $8.75 million to buy the remainder of Stratford Square from Namdar Realty Group. Officials also are in talks with Kohl’s — the mall’s last anchor store — about a proposed agreement to keep the store as part of a redevelopment.

Some might wonder if it’s wise for a municipality to get involved in trying to transform a mall property.

Would it have been easier for West Dundee and Bloomingdale to offer tax breaks or other incentives to entice private developers to buy and redevelop Stratford Square and Spring Hill?

Fabbre reported that a critical moment for West Dundee officials came when they learned that a developer wanted to convert the former Sears building at Spring Hill into an indoor paintball park. A paintball facility was not what they envisioned for a former anchor.

Bloomingdale, meanwhile, spent years trying to partner with Namdar to turn things around at Stratford. The village didn’t go to court to force Namdar to sell until after the company failed to produce a plan for the site.

Over the last month, at least two more shops have closed at Stratford Square. There’s just a handful of remaining businesses.

So, we can see why Bloomingdale and West Dundee officials felt compelled to act.

West Dundee officials plan to demolish Spring Hill and replace it with a mixed-use area featuring housing, restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues. In Bloomingdale, consultants have drawn up conceptual plans showing residential, commercial and recreational development in place of Stratford’s former retail buildings and parking lots.

Whatever happens, West Dundee and Bloomingdale deserve praise for taking the crucial step of acquiring those properties.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.