The Inaugural Years of Stratford Square Mall
The Opening Gala and Early Features
On a brisk day in early spring, March 9, 1981, Stratford Square Mall first opened its doors in Bloomingdale, Illinois.
This momentous occasion marked the birth of a new shopping hub in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago.
The mall was a sight, spanning a massive 1.3 million square feet. It wasn’t just another shopping center but a modern retail beacon, promising every visitor a unique experience.
The 1980s: A Decade of Prosperity
As the years passed, Stratford Square Mall blossomed into a beloved destination. The 1980s were particularly kind to it, with the mall standing tall as a central point for shopping and social gatherings.
During this time, the mall came into its own, becoming a key player in the region’s retail scene.
The competition was fierce, especially with the nearby Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, but Stratford Square held its ground.
The mall’s mix of stores, eateries, and entertainment options made it popular for a fun day out.
As we reflect on the history of Stratford Square Mall, it’s clear that it was more than a shopping center; it was a vibrant community space.
With its wide array of stores and attractions, the mall was once a go-to spot for things to do in Bloomingdale, Illinois.
Its early years set the stage for decades of retail success, leaving an indelible mark on the local community.
Facing the Tides of Change at Stratford Square Mall
The Rise of Woodfield Mall: A Formidable Competitor
As the 1990s dawned, a new challenge emerged on the retail horizon. After undergoing a significant renovation and expansion, Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg ascended to become the top shopping destination in the region.
Its strategic location near major interstates gave it an edge, drawing in crowds from all over. This shift in consumer preference presented a significant challenge to Stratford Square Mall.
It was a time of reflection and strategy, as the mall needed to reinvent itself to remain a strong contender in the retail race.
Revamping for a New Era
The mall underwent a significant transformation in the late 90s, specifically on November 15, 1999. This renovation was a facelift and a reimagining of the mall’s identity.
New flooring, escalators, and restrooms were installed, and a striking new water display became the centerpiece of the central court.
These improvements were not merely cosmetic; they represented the mall’s commitment to staying contemporary and appealing in an ever-evolving retail landscape.
The Gradual Ebb of Popularity
Amidst this rising competition, Stratford Square Mall began to experience a slow but noticeable decline.
The once-bustling corridors saw fewer footsteps, and the laughter and chatter that filled the air grew sporadic.
The changing retail landscape, marked by a shift towards online shopping and evolving consumer habits, added to the mall’s challenges.
It was a sign of the era when traditional shopping malls had to adapt or face the risk of fading into obscurity.
Ownership Transitions and Market Evolution
Through these turbulent times, Stratford Square Mall saw several changes in ownership. Feldman Mall Properties took over in 2005, followed by StreetMac LLC in 2014, and eventually, Namdar Realty Group in 2019.
Each new owner brought a vision to reinvigorate the mall. There was a noticeable shift in the tenant mix, leaning more towards entertainment and dining experiences.
This was an attempt to align with changing consumer preferences, offering more than just retail but an experience to cherish.
However, despite these efforts, the mall continued grappling with the fast-paced retail world changes.
Revitalizing Stratford Square Mall: An Uphill Battle
Embracing Entertainment and Dining
To stay relevant, Stratford Square Mall welcomed a wave of new attractions. The year 2015 saw the opening of Round One, a vibrant entertainment center offering a variety of activities like bowling and arcade games.
This addition and the opening of 25 West Brewery in 2018 signaled a shift towards a more experiential approach.
The mall was no longer just a place to shop; it was evolving into a destination for fun and leisure. However, this transformation was not without its challenges.
The Exodus of Anchor Stores
A pivotal moment in the mall’s history came with the departure of its anchor stores. JCPenney closed its doors in 2014, followed by Macy’s in 2017 and Carson’s in 2018. Sears joined the list in 2019.
These closures left a significant void, both in terms of physical space and in the mall’s ability to draw large crowds.
The departure of Burlington Coat Factory in 2023 further exacerbated this situation, leaving Kohl’s as the sole traditional anchor.
A Struggle to Maintain Relevance
Despite these setbacks, Stratford Square Mall continued to explore new avenues to attract visitors. Introducing non-traditional tenants, such as Bull and Bear Axe Throwing, was a testament to the mall’s efforts to reinvent itself.
However, the closure of key attractions like 25 West Brewery in 2020 and the Round One arcade highlighted the ongoing struggle.
The departure of popular stores like Victoria’s Secret and Express added to the challenges.
In the face of these difficulties, the mall’s quest to remain a significant part of the community’s retail and social fabric continued.
Stratford Square Mall: A Cultural Hub in Unexpected Ways
A Stage for the Silver Screen
Stratford Square Mall found an unexpected niche as a backdrop for the entertainment industry. In 2018 and 2019, the corridors and stores of the mall served as filming locations for HBO’s “Righteous Gemstones.”
This was followed by another filming session in 2020, involving several store locations, including the unique Bull and Bear Axe Throwing.
The mall’s varied spaces offered the perfect setting for diverse scenes, adding a touch of Hollywood to Bloomingdale.
Even the Illinois State Lottery chose the mall for a commercial shoot in May 2022, further cementing its status as a desirable filming location.
Hosting Community Events
Aside from its role in film and television, Stratford Square Mall also emerged as a venue for community events.
These gatherings brought people together, fostering a sense of community and keeping the spirit of the mall alive.
It served as a reminder that malls could be more than just retail spaces; they could be centers of social and cultural activities.
This aspect of the mall played a crucial role in maintaining its relevance, even as the retail landscape around it continued to change.
A Cultural Landmark in Bloomingdale
Despite its challenges in the retail sector, Stratford Square Mall managed to carve out a unique identity. It became a place where art, entertainment, and community converged.
This chapter in the mall’s history highlighted its versatility and resilience, proving that even in times of change, it could find new ways to stay vibrant and meaningful to the people of Bloomingdale.
The Uncertain Horizon of Stratford Square Mall
Envisioning a New Future
Bloomingdale Village President has been vocal about the need for a fresh vision for Stratford Square Mall.
He proposed demolishing the “vacant eyesore” to create a new development featuring street-level retail, restaurants, and residential buildings.
This idea marks a significant shift from the traditional mall concept, suggesting a mixed-use space that could better serve the community’s evolving needs.
As of late 2023, no official plans for demolition have been announced, leaving the future of the mall in a state of uncertainty.
Legal and Financial Endeavors
In a bold move, Bloomingdale has pursued control of the mall through eminent domain, a rare strategy for local governments dealing with large commercial properties.
The village has already invested over $5.6 million in acquiring nearby properties, including the vacant Carson’s and Burlington buildings, to consolidate control over the area.
This aggressive approach stems from frustration with Namdar Realty Group’s perceived inaction in revitalizing the mall.
The lawsuit filed by the village is a clear indication of their commitment to redeveloping the site, believing that total ownership would ease the process.
Preparing for Redevelopment
In anticipation of a major overhaul, the village has established a tax increment financing district encompassing the mall, excluding Woodman’s grocery store.
This move is designed to attract developers by offering property tax incentives for investing in the site’s transformation.
As the last traditional anchor, Kohl’s remains operational, but the overall landscape of the mall is poised for significant changes.
The village’s actions reflect a proactive stance towards reshaping the area into a vibrant, modern hub that could better serve the community’s needs.
Reflecting on the Evolution of Stratford Square Mall
Stratford Square and the Changing Retail Landscape
The story of Stratford Square Mall is emblematic of the larger shifts in the retail industry. Once a thriving hub of commerce and social interaction, it has faced the same challenges as many traditional malls nationwide.
The rise of online shopping and changing consumer habits have redefined what people expect from shopping centers.
Stratford Square Mall’s journey from a bustling retail center to its current state of uncertainty mirrors the evolution of shopping habits and the retail sector as a whole.
Learning from the Mall’s Journey
There are valuable lessons to be gleaned from the rise and fall of Stratford Square Mall. It highlights the importance of adaptability and innovation in changing market dynamics.
The mall’s attempts to reinvent itself, from incorporating entertainment venues to becoming a filming location, demonstrate the need for traditional retail spaces to find new ways to attract visitors.
The mall’s story teaches us the resilience to navigate the rapidly changing landscape of consumer preferences and economic shifts.
The Future of Retail Spaces
Looking ahead, the future of retail spaces like Stratford Square Mall remains a topic of speculation and interest.
Will they transform into mixed-use developments, combining retail with residential and office spaces?
Or will they find new life as community centers, offering experiences beyond shopping?
The fate of Stratford Square Mall, still hanging in the balance, is a poignant reminder of the ongoing transformation in retail and community spaces.
Stratford Square Mall: Reflecting on a Legacy
Summing Up the Journey
As we look back on the journey of Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale, IL, it’s clear that its story is more than just about retail. It’s a narrative of adaptation, community connection, and the shifting tides of consumer behavior.
From its inception in 1981 as a bustling shopping center to its current state, the mall has been a barometer for the retail industry’s changes and challenges.
Looking to the Future
As Stratford Square Mall stands at a crossroads, its future, like the retail industry, remains an unfolding story.
Whatever its fate, the mall’s legacy in Bloomingdale, IL, will be remembered as a testament to the ebbs and flows of consumer trends, economic shifts, and the enduring spirit of community.