URW aims for $100M repositioning of Skokie mall

Developer plans adding 350 apartments as similar projects take hold of suburbs

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield's Stephen Fluhr with rendering of planned redevelopment of Old Orchard mall (LinkedIn, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield)
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield's Stephen Fluhr with rendering of planned redevelopment of Old Orchard mall (LinkedIn, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield)

A France-based developer has revealed its plan to rejuvenate a Skokie mall, one of several in Chicago where major makeovers to add housing to prop up struggling retail assets are in the works.

Owners of the Westfield Old Orchard shopping mall in Skokie are aiming for a $100 million renovation that will replace an empty Bloomingdale’s with a town square and hundreds of apartments, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, or URW, said that even though retail customers made a strong return in the suburbs this year, the 66-year-old mall must change with the times.

“In order to get beyond (the vacancy) and have a 24/7 environment, you have to introduce other uses to the site,” Stephen Fluhr, senior vice president of development, told the outlet. “A lot of this is about building a community that people will call home.”

The idea is to reduce the amount of space devoted to stores and add more restaurants, wellness centers and housing, with around 350 apartments targeted for the Bloomingdales site. Even more housing could be built during later redevelopment phases at the north end of the mall.

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With the project’s announcement, URW became the latest developer to pursue a revamp of suburban Chicago mall by adding loads of housing to build in new recurring retail customers by putting their doorsteps next to storefronts. Dallas-based Centennial Real Estate, owner of Fox Valley Mall in Aurora and Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills tore down two former Sears stores and is building hundreds of apartments on the sites, as well.

“None of the malls are immune,” Fluhr said. “Even Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg has two vacant department stores and is looking at adding residences. It’s always had strong occupancy and been considered one of the most highly productive malls.”

Bloomingdale’s closed its 206,000-square-foot Skokie store in August, but it didn’t leave the mall. Last month it opened a smaller space known as a Bloomie’s in another storefront. While the Bloomingdale’s space will be demolished to make way for housing, a vacant former Lord & Taylor space in the mall will be gutted and redeveloped into three or four smaller outlet stores.

In the next few months, URW will select a multifamily developer for the project and then present detailed plans to village residents. The mall owners then hope to get village approval in time to begin construction in 2024 with the first units becoming available in 2026.

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— Victoria Pruitt