URW sets stage for luxury apartments at Old Orchard mall

Firm’s $100M plan includes turning struggling retail asset into mixed-use hub

URW Taps Focus For 400 Apartments at Skokie Mall

A photo illustration of URW’s Jean-Marie Tritant and Westfield Old Orchard mall in Skokie (Getty, URW, LoopNet)

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s $100 million vision of turning a north suburban shopping center into a vibrant mixed-use hub is taking shape.

The Paris-based firm has tapped local developer Focus to replace a vacant department store at the Westfield Old Orchard mall in Skokie with a 400-unit luxury apartment complex, Crain’s reported

Westfield Old Orchard is one of several suburban malls being redeveloped in response to a rise of e-commerce, accelerated by the pandemic. This shift in the retail sector prompted a handful of landlords to repurpose their assets into a mix of uses, such as residential, medical and entertainment.

Focus is no stranger to these types of projects, as the firm recently started the second phase of a 600-unit apartment complex at Aurora’s Fox Valley Mall. Focus also built 311 units at the Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills. The firm’s experience with such projects positioned it well to realize the vision of malls evolving into suburban mini city centers, Focus CEO Tim Anderson told the outlet.

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Construction for the Old Orchard apartments is expected to start in 2025, and they’re slated to open in 2027. The project calls for the demolition of a closed Bloomingdale’s store at the northwest corner of the property. URW and Focus are currently working to obtain outside capital to help fund the project, and they aim to begin the development approval process later this year.

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URW ultimately wants to revamp the property by adding hundreds of apartments, more restaurants, entertainment and 200,000 square feet of medical space, while enhancing the retail component. 

In October, home furnishings company Arhaus and fashion brand Zara leased a combined 64,000 square feet in the 115,000-square-foot former Lord & Taylor space, with plans to open their new stores this year. For Zara, the lease marked a 17,000-square-foot expansion from its current occupancy at the mall.

—Quinn Donoghue