Daily Herald opinion: End of an era at Spring Hill Mall and the sign of hope for what’s next

Shoppers searching for a good deal or the perfect gift used to flock to Spring Hill Mall on the weekends. But last Saturday afternoon, the inside of the mall was empty, and the trickle of people outside walked up to locked entrances. Some took a moment to read the signs taped to the glass doors announcing that the mall had closed for good.

Only a Kohl’s store and a movie theater remain open for business at the site, which straddles West Dundee and Carpentersville. It is the end of the era for a regional mall that operated for more than four decades.

Dozens of current and former employees refused to let Spring Hill close on Friday evening without saying goodbye. They gathered inside the nearly vacant shopping center just hours before the doors had to be locked.

Marilyn Tynor was one of them.

In a story over the weekend, our Rick West wrote that Tynor started as a secretary in the marketing department a month before the mall opened in 1980. She worked at Spring Hill in various capacities for 18 years before retiring.

“To look at it empty after remembering all the hubbub when it opened, it’s very sad,” Tynor said. “We did a lot of good things for the community.”

The closure came as the village of West Dundee, which already owns two anchor buildings, plans to purchase the mall. Last year, the village purchased the former Sears store for $2 million and the shuttered Macy’s for $1.25 million. In October, village trustees agreed to spend $7 million to acquire the rest of the mall.

West Dundee officials say they expect the deal to buy the mall will be finalized this spring. Demolition of the building, except for the Kohl’s store and the Cinemark theater, is expected to occur within the next 12 to 18 months.

The end of Spring Hill has stirred memories for those of us who enjoyed shopping and dining there through the years. But we also witnessed the steady decline of the mall as anchor tenants left and small storefronts became vacant. Even after a massive renovation in 2016, the mall continued to struggle.

West Dundee Village President Chris Nelson said it became clear around 2020 that “the improvements made in 2016 were not going to sustain the mall.”

So, while the closing of Spring Hill is sad, the time has come to consider new uses for the property. To their credit, West Dundee officials are actively working to make that happen.

Nelson has said that village ownership of the property is critical for redevelopment. He noted developers indicated that the complexities of the mall — such as multiple property owners and land restrictions — would make it difficult to revamp the site.

As for what happens once the site is under village control, Nelson has warned that redeveloping it could take five to 10 years. If the result is a mixed-use development with residential, entertainment and retail uses that can thrive in the current economic climate, it will be worth the wait.

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