Hawthorn Mall: Crafting the Future of Retail in Vernon Hills, IL

The Genesis of Hawthorn Mall

Introduction to Hawthorn Mall

Hawthorn Mall first opened its doors on September 10, 1973. Developed by Urban Investment and Development Co, it was not just a shopping center but a key component of New Century Town.

This planned community in Vernon Hills, Illinois, was envisioned to house 5,000 condominiums and townhomes.

The mall’s inception marked a significant milestone in the area’s development, offering residents a new shopping and social hub.

Early Anchors and Layout

Initially, Hawthorn Mall was anchored by prominent retail names. Marshall Field & Company, Lord & Taylor, and Sears were among the first to establish their presence.

These stores were cornerstones of the mall, attracting a wide range of shoppers.

Interestingly, the original design of Hawthorn Mall did not include a food court, a feature that later became standard in malls across the country. This initial layout focused more on retail and less on dining experiences.

Initial Expansion and Changes

The mall underwent its first major change in 1990. Lord & Taylor, one of the original anchors, was sold to Carson Pirie Scott.

This transition marked the beginning of a series of expansions and renovations. By the late 1990s, Hawthorn Mall had welcomed additional stores, including Barnes & Noble and JCPenney.

The latter was a strategic addition, constructed on the mall’s north end to replace a shuttered location at the failing Lakehurst Mall in Waukegan.

The early years of Hawthorn Mall set the stage for its growth and evolution. As a commercial and trade hub, it began to shape the retail landscape of Vernon Hills.

For visitors looking for things to do north of Chicago, Illinois, the mall offers a variety of shopping options. It has begun to emerge as a central gathering place for the community.

Ownership and Management Transitions

Westfield Group Era

In 2002, a significant change occurred when Westfield Group acquired Hawthorn Mall. This acquisition signaled the beginning of a fresh and exciting phase in the mall’s history.

Under Westfield’s ownership, the mall underwent several name changes, evolving from Hawthorn Center to Westfield Shoppingtown Hawthorn and finally to Westfield Hawthorn.

These changes reflected Westfield’s branding strategy and influence on the mall’s identity.

During the Westfield era, the emphasis was on updating the mall’s features and broadening its allure to attract a more diverse group of shoppers.

Recent Ownership Changes

December 2015 saw another pivotal moment for Hawthorn Mall. Westfield Group sold an 80% interest in the mall to Centennial Real Estate, Montgomery Street Partners, and USAA Real Estate.

This transfer of ownership brought new perspectives and strategies for the mall’s development. Centennial Real Estate, known for its expertise in retail properties, took the helm in managing the mall.

Their approach was geared towards adapting to the evolving retail landscape and ensuring the mall remained a key destination in Vernon Hills.

Management Strategies

Under the management of Centennial Real Estate, Hawthorn Mall embarked on a transformation journey. The focus shifted to maintaining the mall as a retail center and enhancing its role as a community hub.

Centennial’s strategies involved diversifying the tenant mix, introducing more entertainment and dining options, and hosting community events.

These efforts aimed to create a more engaging and dynamic shopping experience, catering to the changing preferences of consumers.

The management’s vision was to keep Hawthorn Mall relevant and vibrant in an increasingly competitive retail environment.

Evolution and Redevelopment

Early 2000s Developments

The 2010s marked a period of significant development for Hawthorn Mall. This era saw the introduction of new anchors and the expansion of the mall’s offerings.

Dave & Buster’s, a popular entertainment and dining venue, opened its doors on March 26, 2014, bringing a new dimension of leisure and fun to the mall.

In addition, AMC Theatres, a 12-screen cinema complex, began operations in the spring of 2015.

These new features formed a key component of a wider plan to expand the mall’s offerings beyond conventional retail, appealing to a more varied spectrum of visitor preferences.

Phase 1 of Hawthorn 2.0

The redevelopment of Hawthorn Mall, known as Hawthorn 2.0, commenced with its first phase, focusing on modernizing the mall’s infrastructure and tenant mix.

This phase included the introduction of Hawthorn Row, a new section featuring luxury apartments and contemporary retail spaces.

The Domaine, a 311-unit luxury apartment complex, became a key feature of this redevelopment, blending residential living with retail convenience.

This phase was a strategic move to transform the mall into a mixed-use destination, aligning with contemporary trends in urban planning and consumer preferences.

Future Plans and Phase 2

Looking towards the future, Phase 2 of the Hawthorn 2.0 redevelopment plan is set to begin. This phase aims to transform the mall into a vibrant, mixed-use space beyond traditional shopping.

The vision includes adding more dining options, entertainment venues, and possibly additional residential units.

The goal is to create a dynamic ‘main street’ atmosphere, fostering community and making the mall a central gathering place in Vernon Hills.

This forward-thinking approach reflects the evolving nature of retail spaces, focusing on experiential offerings and community engagement.

Hawthorn Mall’s Exciting New Phase of Transformative Redevelopment

Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills, IL, has embarked on an ambitious new phase of redevelopment, marking a significant transformation in its 50-year history.

Announced in May 2023, this phase continues the transformative journey that began in 2019 and expanded in late 2022.

The redevelopment plan involves removing over 100,000 square feet of interior space to make way for new retail opportunities within the Hawthorn 2.0 campus.

A notable change includes relocating Dave & Buster’s to another site within the mall, featuring their latest prototype while keeping the original location operational during the transition.

A key highlight of this phase is the construction of the second of two planned mixed-use luxury apartment complexes, along with a three-acre plaza featuring outdoor greenspace.

This development aligns with the vision of creating a self-sustaining campus where people can live, work, and play, delivering a transformative experience promised to the residents of Vernon Hills.

The Domaine, a 311-unit luxury apartment development, was opened for occupancy in the Summer.

Below these apartments, significant retail space is being prepared, with Hawthorn actively engaging with modern contemporary brands and direct-to-consumer retailers to fill these spaces.

Additionally, the adjacent open-air Hawthorn Row integrated streetscape is currently being leased.

The second phase of the redevelopment includes breaking ground on 250 new luxury apartments and a three-acre plaza, which is expected to open in 2025.

This complex will feature 27,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and a prospective grocery anchor.

Furthermore, the mall is reimagining its interior space for future growth. Some retailers will relocate as these changes occur, adding new retailers to fill spaces on Hawthorn Row, The Domaine’s ground floors, and the upcoming 250-unit complex.

A new food gallery is also planned, offering various quick-serve options, and is expected to open in time for the holidays this year.

Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille is under construction on an outparcel of the mall, which is scheduled to open in Spring 2024. This popular steakhouse will feature an expansive dining room, private dining areas, and patio dining.

Centennial, the owner and operator of Hawthorn Mall, is focused on creating a unique, cookie-cutter-free development.

This redevelopment is part of a master plan that will continue to evolve the center through 2028, redefining the customer experience and expanding the center’s trade area.

This new phase of Hawthorn Mall’s redevelopment reflects a bold step into the future, promising to redefine the shopping and community experience in Vernon Hills, ensuring that the mall continues to evolve and thrive for generations to come.

Anchors and Their Stories

Current Anchors

  1. JCPenney — Opened in 1997
  2. Macy’s — Opened in 2006
  3. Dave & Buster’s — Opened in 2014
  4. AMC Theatres — Opened in 2015

Former Anchors

Former Anchors Opened Closed
Lord & Taylor 1973 1990
Marshall Fields 1973 2006
Sears 1973 2018
Carson’s 1991 2018
Barnes & Noble 1997 2018

Macy’s: A Story of Retail Evolution

Macy’s, a name synonymous with American retail, has been a key anchor at Hawthorn Mall since its opening in 2006.

Replacing the former Marshall Field & Company, Macy’s brought a new era of retail experience to the mall.

Known for its wide range of products, from fashionable apparel to home goods, Macy’s has consistently adapted to changing consumer trends.

Its presence in the mall has attracted a diverse customer base and reinforced Hawthorn Mall’s status as a premier shopping destination in Vernon Hills.

Macy's store at Hawthorn mall
SchuminWeb, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

JCPenney: Adapting to Modern Retail Demands

JCPenney, another major anchor, has been part of Hawthorn Mall since 1997. Its establishment was a strategic move to replace a previous location at the declining Lakehurst Mall in Waukegan, Illinois.

Over the years, JCPenney has evolved, offering a mix of affordable apparel, home decor, and beauty products.

Its adaptability to the changing retail landscape has made it a staple for shoppers seeking quality and value.

JCPenney’s commitment to customer service and its broad product range has helped maintain its relevance in the competitive retail market.

Dave & Buster’s and AMC Theatres: Entertainment Anchors

Dave & Buster’s and AMC Theatres represent the shift in mall dynamics, focusing on entertainment as a key component of the shopping experience.

Dave & Buster’s, opened in 2014, offers a unique combination of arcade games and dining, making it a popular destination for families and young adults.

AMC Theatres opened in 2015, bringing a state-of-the-art cinema experience to Hawthorn Mall. With 12 screens, it offers the latest in movie entertainment, enhancing the mall’s appeal as a place for leisure and relaxation.

These entertainment anchors have become integral to Hawthorn Mall, drawing visitors not just for shopping but for a comprehensive entertainment experience.

Spotlight on Prominent Tenants of Hawthorn Mall

Fashion and Apparel Leaders

Hawthorn Mall boasts a diverse range of fashion and apparel stores, catering to various styles and preferences.

H&M, a globally recognized brand known for its trendy and affordable fashion, has been a key tenant, attracting a younger demographic seeking the latest styles.

Eddie Bauer, another prominent tenant, offers a contrast with its focus on outdoor apparel and gear, appealing to adventure enthusiasts and those who appreciate quality and durability in their clothing.

Unique Dining and Snack Experiences

A variety of dining options enriches the culinary landscape of Hawthorn Mall. Auntie Anne’s® Hand-Rolled Soft Pretzels and Cinnabon & Carvel Ice Cream are popular stops for shoppers seeking quick and delicious treats.

Charleys Philly Steaks adds to the mall’s fast dining choices, offering classic American flavors. These eateries provide visitors with a delightful break, enhancing the shopping experience with their diverse food offerings.

Entertainment and Leisure Hubs

Entertainment is a significant aspect of Hawthorn Mall, with tenants like Dave & Buster’s and Gamer’s World adding a fun dimension.

Dave & Buster’s, combining arcade gaming with a restaurant, has become a favorite for families and groups looking for an entertaining outing.

Gamer’s World caters to the gaming community, offering a wide range of board games, card games, and collectibles, making it a niche destination within the mall.

Specialty Stores and Unique Offerings

Specialty stores at Hawthorn Mall offer unique products and experiences. Bath & Body Works, known for its fragrant body care and home fragrance products, and Claire’s, a favorite for trendy accessories and jewelry, are among these special tenants.

The Painted Penguin stands out for its creative and artistic offerings, providing activities like pottery painting adding a creative outlet for mall visitors.

Health and Wellness Focus

Health and wellness are also represented at Hawthorn Mall. LensCrafters offers comprehensive eye care services and a wide selection of eyewear catering to the optical needs of shoppers.

Sleep Number provides customized sleep solutions, showcasing the latest sleep technology and comfort. These tenants play a crucial role in meeting the health and wellness needs of the mall’s visitors.

Tech and Innovation

Tech-oriented tenants like Tech iFix and Zoom Zone address the growing demand for technology solutions.

Tech iFix is a go-to spot for tech repairs and accessories, while Zoom Zone offers a range of innovative tech products. These stores cater to tech-savvy shoppers and those seeking the latest gadgets and tech services.

Hawthorn Mall’s Ongoing Journey

Reflecting on Hawthorn Mall’s Evolution

As we look back on the journey of Hawthorn Mall, it’s clear that its evolution has been both dynamic and responsive to the changing retail landscape.

From its inception in 1973 as a traditional shopping center to its current status as a modern, mixed-use destination, Hawthorn Mall has consistently adapted to meet the needs and preferences of its visitors.

The mall’s ability to evolve, from introducing new anchors and tenants to the redevelopment initiatives under Hawthorn 2.0, showcases its resilience and forward-thinking approach.

The Mall’s Role in the Community and Retail Industry

Hawthorn Mall has been a retail hub vital to the Vernon Hills community. Its transformation over the years has mirrored the shifts in consumer behavior and retail trends.

The mall’s success in integrating shopping, dining, entertainment, and even residential living speaks to its role as a community centerpiece.

It stands as a testament to the potential of retail spaces to be more than just places to shop but destinations where experiences and memories are created.

Looking Forward: Hawthorn Mall’s Future Prospects

As we move forward, the future of Hawthorn Mall looks promising. With ongoing redevelopment plans and a focus on diversifying its offerings, the mall is well-positioned to continue thriving.

The commitment to sustainability, innovation, and community engagement will be crucial to its continued success.

Hawthorn Mall’s journey is far from over; it remains a vibrant and evolving destination, ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future retail world.

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