The New Face of Illinois Star Centre Mall in Marion, IL

The Dawn of Illinois Star Centre Mall

Ah, the early ’90s—a time of grunge music, flannel shirts, and the grand opening of the Illinois Star Centre Mall in Marion, IL.

The mall opened its doors in 1991, thanks to the efforts of the Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation. The excitement was palpable as people flocked to see the new shopping destination.

The mall started strong with anchor stores like Phar-Mor, Target, Dillard’s, and Sears. These big names drew in crowds, making the mall a go-to spot for shopping and socializing. But it wasn’t alone in the retail landscape; it had to compete with University Mall in nearby Carbondale.

The competition was fierce but friendly. Both malls had unique offerings, but Illinois Star Centre had a fresh, modern appeal. It was the new kid on the block, and people were curious.

The mall even got a boost when Red Lobster decided to set up a restaurant in the surrounding area in 1992.

A year later, in 1993, the mall expanded its entertainment options by adding an eight-screen Kerasotes movie theater.

This addition made it more than a shopping center; it became a place for family outings and date nights. The mall was on a roll, and it seemed like nothing could slow it down.

But as we all know, life is full of ups and downs. The same goes for shopping malls. While the Illinois Star Centre enjoyed a period of prosperity, challenges were on the horizon. But for now, it was the place to be, and it looked like its future was bright.

The Illusion of Prosperity: Illinois Star Centre’s Occupancy Woes

The mall’s location was a point of contention. Nearby Carbondale already had a shopping mall, University Mall, and retail analysts predicted fierce competition between the two cities.

The mall did manage to pull Sears away from University Mall, but the victory was short-lived. Phar-Mor closed its doors in 1993, and the mall’s occupancy issues continued to plague it.

Despite the initial buzz and the addition of other businesses in the area, the mall faced a persistent issue: it struggled with occupancy for most of its history.

The mall changed hands in 1996 when DeBartolo sold it to local developers. Yet, the occupancy issues persisted, casting a shadow over the mall’s future. Even new ownership could only boost it to 60% occupancy by 2000.

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Illinois Star Centre
Illinois Star Centre” by MikeKalasnik is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Downward Spiral: Illinois Star Centre’s Unending Struggles

In the early 2000s, the mall’s struggles were evident to anyone who visited. Many of the mall’s tenant stores had closed, leaving the food court deserted.

2011 Sabre ISC acquired the mall by purchasing delinquent tax certificates and renamed Illinois Star Centre. However, this change in ownership did little to improve the mall’s fortunes.

In 2015, three of the mall’s owners were imprisoned on various counts, and leasing agents were unresponsive to inquiries about the mall.

The mall’s future was further complicated because different companies owned the parking lot and anchor stores than the mall itself. The ownership team declared bankruptcy in 2017 after failing to attract a buyer in an auction.

By 2018, the mall was on its last legs. As part of a nationwide downsizing, Sears closed its doors, and other stores like Joe’s Records and GameStop followed suit.

Finally, in November 2018, it was announced that the Illinois Star Centre would cease operations, although anchor stores Target and Dillard’s would remain open. The mall’s long-standing struggle with occupancy had finally led to its downfall.

The Closure and Its Impact

The closure of the Illinois Star Centre was more than a loss of a shopping center; it was a blow to the community’s spirit.

Marion, Illinois, city leaders acknowledged that losing the mall had stunted the city’s growth. The mall had been a significant part of the community, and its absence was felt deeply.

The property went through a period of uncertainty. Ownership complexities arose involving entities like Roc Enterprises, LLC. These legal tangles complicated moving forward with any redevelopment plans, leaving the community in limbo.

During this period, the mall became a topic of local discussions, debates, and even nostalgia. People reminisced about their good times there, from shopping sprees to first dates. The mall had been a part of their lives, and its absence was a harsh reality.

However, the community was resilient. Local businesses and city leaders started to explore other avenues for growth and development. While the mall was gone, the spirit of enterprise was still alive and well in Marion.

As time passed, rumors about potential redevelopment plans for the mall property started circulating. These whispers gave the community a glimmer of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel. And soon enough, that light would become a reality.

The Rebirth and Future Plans

In September 2023, the community’s hopes were confirmed. Black Diamond developers announced plans to breathe new life into the Illinois Star Centre.

The state had cleared them to create a Star Bond District, an incentive that uses incremental sales tax to fund development projects.

The developers unveiled their vision for the property, dubbed the Oasis Outdoors project. This ambitious plan includes a new sports complex, a TopGolf-style facility, baseball fields, and pickleball courts. It aims to make the mall property a hub for outdoor activities and sports.

The project received unanimous approval from Marion city leaders, signaling strong community support.

The redevelopment is expected to create over 500 new jobs, significantly boosting the local economy. And for those looking for things to do in Marion, Illinois, this project promises to offer plenty of options.

The timeline for the project is ambitious but achievable. The entire redevelopment is expected to be completed in three years. This means that by 2026, the Illinois Star Centre will again be a bustling hub of activity, albeit in a different form.

The community is buzzing with excitement about the future of the Illinois Star Centre. Local business owners are optimistic that the redevelopment will increase traffic, benefiting the mall and surrounding businesses.

The Community Perspective

The redevelopment plans have been met with enthusiasm from residents and business owners. The more people visit the mall, the more they’ll see surrounding businesses.

A community public hearing was held to discuss the redevelopment plans. Developers presented their vision, and city leaders explained how the Star Bond District would work. The meeting allowed the community to ask questions and share their thoughts.

The response was overwhelmingly positive. People are excited about the new entertainment components, such as a possible rock climbing wall. The project promises to bring much traffic into Marion, making it a more vibrant community.

The developers, Black Diamond, have been transparent about their plans. They’ve engaged with the community, keeping them informed and involved in the redevelopment process. This open dialogue has built trust and anticipation for the project’s completion.

The community is looking forward to the mall’s transformation. It’s not only about shopping; it’s about creating a space where people can gather, socialize, and enjoy various activities.

The Illinois Star Centre is poised to become a community hub again, and the excitement is palpable.

The mall’s rebirth is seen as a win for the community. It’s a testament to the resilience and spirit of Marion’s residents. While the mall has had its ups and downs, its future looks bright, and the community is eager to see what the next chapter holds.


The Illinois Star Centre has been a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows. From its promising start in the early ’90s to its decline and eventual closure, the mall has been a significant part of Marion’s community fabric. But now, with new plans and a fresh vision, the mall is set to make a comeback.

The Oasis Outdoors project promises to transform the mall into a hub for sports and outdoor activities. With strong community support and a clear roadmap, the future looks promising. The mall is not merely a retail space but part of the community’s identity.

The redevelopment plans have breathed new life into a property many had written off. It’s a story of resilience, community spirit, and the ability to adapt and grow. The Illinois Star Centre is rising from the ashes, and the community is ready to embrace its new avatar.

The mall’s journey serves as a lesson in the importance of adaptability and community engagement. It’s a story that resonates with anyone who has seen their local landmarks change over time.

As the Illinois Star Centre prepares for its next chapter, the community waits in anticipation, ready to make new memories in a familiar space.

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