End of a retail era: Stratford Square Mall to close next month

Stratford Square Mall, a suburban shopping hub in its prime and now a shell of its former self, will shut its doors next month.

The zombie mall has been declining for years. Fed up with the status quo, the village of Bloomingdale began independently buying vacant anchor stores around Stratford Square. Earlier this year, the village purchased the last piece — the core of the mall — in an $8.75 million deal.

With the mall under village ownership and the property consolidation complete, officials are helping the few remaining tenants relocate to new spaces. After more than 40 years in business, the mall is set to close to the public at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 21.

For some residents, the mall’s demise was sad but inevitable.

In a sign of the times, another suburban mall, Spring Hill, straddling West Dundee and Carpentersville, closed for good last Friday. Once Stratford Square is vacant, Bloomingdale officials will move forward with the demolition of the mall, making way for a major new mixed-use development.

“This is a project that will have a long-lasting effect on our community,” Village Administrator Pietro Scalera said. “Being a Bloomingdale resident myself, I'm sad to see the mall go, but at the same time, I'm looking forward to the new opportunities that the new development will bring to our community.”

Stratford Square opened in the mall-rat era with a Montgomery Ward and other long-gone department stores. It filled the shopping void between Woodfield Mall to the north and the higher-end Oak Brook shopping center. Stratford Square at one point had six anchor stores, a movie theater, a dancing water fountain and greenery. Skylights allowed sunlight into the hulking mall.

Bloomingdale’s Stratford Square Mall lost a JCPenney store in 2014. Then Macy's and Carson Pirie Scott closed. Sears shut down in 2019. Daily Herald file photo, 2014

But while other regional malls sought reinvention and a new look, Stratford Square faded into obsolescence.

“It's just the condition of the mall,” Scalera said. “It just makes it impossible or not economically feasible to save the mall, and unfortunately shopping habits have changed, and interior malls need to adapt.”

Bloomingdale leaders initially tried to work on a joint venture with Namdar Realty Group, a New York-based commercial real estate firm that acquired the interior portion of the mall in October 2019.

But those negotiations faltered, and Bloomingdale moved to acquire the former Carson's, Burlington and Sears properties along with the strip of land along Springfield Drive.

In January, Namdar and Mason Asset Management announced they had “agreed to sell the property to allow for its demolition and enable the village to advance its vision for redevelopment.”

Bloomingdale officials say they aim to revitalize the area with a blend of restaurants, entertainment venues, retail, housing options and public, pedestrian-friendly green space. The village is currently working with a large land architect to develop a plan that will incorporate community feedback.

“We are trying to do a heavy concentration on restaurant, entertainment, retail-type uses for the area,” Scalera said. “And it will probably include limited residential development because the goal is to try and make this a hub or center for the community, that we would be able to provide spaces that they can enjoy … in all four seasons.”

Most of the mall’s remaining tenants have found new homes. An Indian clothing shop and a computer repair store are moving over to Bloomingdale Court. Others have relocated to neighboring towns.

The village also has worked to keep Kohl’s, the last anchor store, as part of the new development. A facade improvement is expected to “freshen that building up,” Scalera said.

Village officials, Scalera said, have tried for a number of years to bring new retailers to the mall, but they kept getting the same response: “That it's just not a place they want to be.”

“So unfortunately, the only course of action is to … clean the slate and start fresh for that area and for Bloomingdale itself,” Scalera said.

Officials will be seeking bids from demolition contractors and hope the area will be cleared by the end of the year.

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