Editorial: Bloomingdale steps in to help struggling Stratford Square Mall
When a New York-based commercial real estate firm acquired Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale, village officials asked to see the company's plan to turn around the struggling shopping center.
But nearly two years after taking over Stratford, Namdar Realty Group has yet to unveil a proposal.
Bloomingdale officials, meanwhile, have grown tired of waiting.
So the village is working with a consultant to create a plan to revitalize the mall property at the southeast corner of Gary Avenue and Schick Road.
"Without someone exerting some leadership and some direction and some vision, nothing is going to happen," Village President Franco Coladipietro said. "It would just continue to deteriorate."
We applaud the village for getting involved and trying to create a vision for Stratford.
Officials in Bloomingdale understand there needs to be a plan for what comes next at the mall. Doing nothing is not an option for a property that was once an economic engine.
Stratford, which opened in 1981, started to decline when its JCPenney store closed in 2014. It then lost three other anchor stores and many smaller tenants inside the mall.
Last week, the consultant hired by the village -- Teska Associates Inc. -- revealed that Stratford is down to only 40 stores. The mall had 110 stores just two years ago.
"This is not a situation unique to Bloomingdale," Teska President Lee Brown said. "All across America, there are communities that were reeling from the loss of these malls in their community."
Indeed, challenges are facing mid-size regional malls nationwide. And the pandemic hasn't helped. But in the case of Stratford, the previous owner was at least trying to turn things around.
StreetMac LLC was planning to spend more than $42 million to improve Stratford. That plan was scrapped when Namdar bought the mall in October 2019.
Yes, a new Woodman's Food Market opened in August on the property. But that was the result of a deal the supermarket chain made with StreetMac.
When Teska gave a presentation about the mall to Bloomingdale trustees last week, Namdar representatives didn't attend the meeting.
The company must be involved with the process going forward.
We are confident Bloomingdale will come up with a redevelopment plan. Of course, the village will need to work with Namdar to execute the ideas, because at the end of the day, nothing can happen at Stratford unless the mall's owner signs off on it.
Still, the village is to be commended for stepping up to exert the energy, leadership and foresight needed to return the Stratford site to the community asset it can be.