Bloomingdale officials start to take revival of Stratford Square Mall into their own hands
Stratford Square Mall was already struggling in 2019 when the Bloomingdale shopping center was down to 110 stores.
Now its future is even more uncertain.
The 1980s-era indoor mall at the southeast corner of Gary Avenue and Schick Road has only 40 remaining stores. It has lost four anchor stores within the last seven years, including a Sears and Macy's.
Bloomingdale officials are losing patience with the mall's owner, Namdar Realty Group, a New York-based commercial real estate firm. Namdar acquired Stratford in October 2019. But the company has yet to unveil a plan for a resurgence.
So the village is taking steps to create a redevelopment plan for the property.
"The regional mall concept in this area is not going to survive," Village President Franco Coladipietro said. "We couldn't wait any longer as far as getting things started. It's time that we started looking forward to seeing what we can do."
The village started that process in May when it hired Teska Associates Inc. to develop ideas for revitalizing the property.
On Monday night, Teska representatives gave a presentation to the village board. They talked about the causes of the mall's struggles.
Stratford, which opened in 1981, started to decline when the mall's JCPenney store closed in 2014. Anchor stores Carson Pirie Scott, Macy's and Sears also closed.
Teska says the mall's vacancy rate was 26% in 2019. It has increased to 69% this year.
"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."
Namdar representatives were not at Monday's meeting. They didn't respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Brown says the trend for struggling malls is to bring in new activities and attractions to make them entertainment hubs. He mentioned other are malls that are being revitalized, including Northbrook Court in Northbrook, Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills and Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee.
Teska will work with Bloomingdale's plan commission to identify redevelopment ideas for the mall. A website also will be created to provide information and help with messaging.
After gathering the necessary data, Teska plans to host public meetings to gather feedback from the community.
Ultimately, Teska will recommend redevelopment options for the mall.
Coladipietro suggested the options could include adding housing around the mall or creating an entirely new shopping experience. He cited a plan to construct luxury apartments near the mall as an example.
It's unclear how involved Namdar will be in the process.
Bloomingdale has continued to withhold funds from a 1% sales tax on all purchases at the mall until Namdar presents a plan or a strategy for a turnaround of Stratford.
"This is a high priority of the board," Coladipietro said. "I think we need to engage at some level some types of different businesses we can attract. That will probably shape how much retail the site can support."