The Genesis of the Retail Giant
In Lombard, Illinois, lies a retail marvel that once held the title of the largest shopping center in America at its opening in 1968.
The Yorktown Center Mall, with its grand architecture and plethora of retail offerings, embarked on a journey that not only shaped the local retail landscape but also reflected the broader retail trends across the nation.
Initially, Yorktown Center boasted a distinctive architectural design. The mall featured a central courtyard flanked by three-story Carson Pirie Scott and Wieboldt’s anchor department stores, with wings stretching northward and southward housing two-story JCPenney and Montgomery Ward anchor department stores, respectively.
The area north of the mall proper harbored a strip mall dubbed the “Convenience Center,” initially anchored by a Grand Union supermarket.
Moving on, the mall’s sprawling grounds also housed auto centers for the JCPenney and Montgomery Ward anchors, a General Cinema movie theater, and two restaurants.
The mall’s initial design aimed at providing a one-stop shop for the residents, bringing a blend of retail, entertainment, and dining under one roof.
Furthermore, an intriguing feature of Yorktown Center is the Boeger-Brinkman Cemetery, situated at the southern end of the parking lot.
This cemetery, part of a family’s farmland, was retained even as the farmland was transformed into a bustling retail hub, adding a touch of historical essence to the modern retail landscape.
A Journey Through the Decades: Yorktown Center’s Evolution
As the 1980s rolled in, a remodeling swept through Yorktown Center. The dark tiles and flat white facades gave way to pastels and neon lighting, injecting a fresh, vibrant vibe into the mall.
Skylights were introduced, casting natural sunlight into the shopping center, while freestanding elevators replaced the “floating” staircases, adding a modern touch to the mall’s aesthetics.
During the same decade, escalators were installed near the JCPenney and Montgomery Ward anchors, expanding the retail space and enhancing accessibility.
The vacant supermarket anchor of the Convenience Center morphed into a Scandinavian Design furniture store, reflecting the mall’s adaptive nature to the shifting retail trends.
Additionally, the 1980s marked a period of contrast between Yorktown Center and its nearby counterpart, Oakbrook Center. Unlike Oakbrook, which expanded its anchor collection, Yorktown witnessed the closure of Wieboldt’s, one of its anchor stores, in 1987 due to bankruptcy.
However, resilience shone through as Von Maur took over the vacant space, opening its first Chicago-area store in 1994.
“The transition of anchors showcased Yorktown Center’s resilience and adaptability to the shifting sands of retail.”
The 1990s brought a blend of closures and new beginnings. Madigan’s, a two-level clothing store, bid farewell in 1992, leaving a void that blossomed into a food court and additional retail space.
Meanwhile, Woolworth’s closure in 1997 paved the way for Big Idea Productions, the studio behind VeggieTales, to set up shop in 1999, adding a touch of entertainment flair to the mall.
Moreover, the perimeter of the mall blossomed with new developments. October 1996 saw the opening of Target Greatland. The once JCPenney Auto Center was reborn as The Pacific Club, a nightclub managed by Walter Payton’s restaurant group.
The General Cinema movie theater was replaced by an eighteen-screen megaplex, elevating the entertainment offerings at Yorktown Center.
New Millennium, New Beginnings: Yorktown Center in the 2000s and 2010s
With the dawn of the new millennium, Yorktown Center embarked on a transformation journey. The central courtyard underwent a major revamp.
The narrow bridge connecting the north and south sides of the courtyard was replaced by a wide diagonal bridge adorned with new escalators. This remodeling also saw the introduction of a customer service desk, a first for the mall.
“This decade marked a shift, not only in architecture but in the essence of the shopping experience at Yorktown Center.”
In 2001, the narrative of anchor stores took a new turn with the closure of Montgomery Ward. The void left behind soon gave birth to ‘The Shops on Butterfield,’ a lifestyle center section that opened its doors in 2007.
Anchored by HomeGoods, Marshalls, and Lucky Strike Lanes, a bowling alley, this new section brought a fresh retail and recreational blend to the community.
Meanwhile, 2007 also witnessed the opening of an eighteen-story Westin hotel outside the mall, adding a touch of luxury to the Yorktown Center premises.
This period also saw the Convenience Center rebranded as ‘The Shops at Yorktown,’ despite the Carson Pirie Scott furniture gallery continuing to attract patrons.
In the following decade, Yorktown Center experienced ownership transitions, which saw the mall being bought by a partnership between KKR and YTC Pacific for $196 million in April 2012.
This period also witnessed significant renovations, with $18 million spent in 2014 to revamp the food court, adding more healthy options, additional seating, entertainment screens, and workstations, aligning with the modern-day shopper’s needs.
Furthermore, the mall’s landscape continued to evolve with the closure of Carson’s in 2018, following the inability to satisfy its established long-term debt.
However, 2019 brought a fresh wave of residential allure as luxury apartments, Elan and Overture, were completed and opened on the north side of the center, adding a residential facet to the retail giant.
A Peep into the Future: Redevelopment Plans Unveiled
As we embrace the roaring 2020s, Yorktown Center is not one to be left in the dust of yesterday. Unveiling ambitious redevelopment plans, the mall is transcending the traditional retail boundaries.
The former Carson’s anchor store is reimagined into a transformative mixed-use asset. It’s not merely about shopping anymore; it’s about creating a community-centric space where people can live, shop, and relish life’s simple joys.
“Redevelopment at Yorktown Center isn’t just a facelift; it’s about fostering a sense of community.”
Residential units are being introduced alongside green spaces that invite nature into the urban setting. Imagine taking a stroll through lush greenery after a satisfying shopping spree or enjoying coffee in a quaint little café in a garden setting.
It’s about blending retail with lifestyle, creating a haven where shopping goes hand in hand with leisure and living.
Furthermore, Yorktown Center is metamorphosing into a walkable community. Picture tree-lined pathways guiding you from shops to dining spots, entertainment venues, and fitness studios.
It’s about creating a seamless blend of retail, residential, and recreational spaces, offering many things to do in Lombard, Illinois.
Additionally, the mall is opening its arms to various dining establishments. The construction of an Olive Garden on the south side of the center, completed in 2023, offers a new dining haven for Italian food enthusiasts. It’s not just about retail therapy; it’s about satiating the foodie in you as well!
Challenges and Triumphs: Navigating Modern Retail Waters
Every tale of success is dotted with challenges, and Yorktown Center‘s narrative is no exception. Recent times saw the mall navigating through a few rough waters.
A notable incident was a robbery at Von Maur in February 2022, which, although unsettling, showcased the mall’s commitment to bolstering security and ensuring a safe shopping environment for all.
“Every challenge faced is a stepping stone towards achieving a safer, more engaging retail environment.”
In a bold endeavor to breathe new life into the vacant strip mall known as Shops of Yorktown, D.R. Horton set its sights on acquiring a portion of this idle space on the north side of the center.
With the green light from The Village, the acquisition was completed in 2023, paving the way for a new residential haven within Lombard, IL. Construction commenced on 90 elegant townhomes, baptized as The Summit at Yorktown.
This development not only signifies a fresh chapter in utilizing dormant retail spaces but also beckons a community-centric future, intertwining comfortable living with the convenience and vibrancy of Yorktown Center’s retail landscape.
Despite the hurdles, Yorktown Center continues to burgeon, expanding its horizons to cater to the diverse needs of the Lombard community.
Embrace Nostalgia and Look Forward to the Future
Yorktown Center has a rich history filled with nostalgia, from the days of Carson Pirie Scott and Montgomery Ward to the rise of new retailers and developments. As the mall continues to evolve, it remains a cherished destination for the local community and visitors alike.
Whether you’re looking to reminisce or explore the latest in shopping, dining, and entertainment, Yorktown Center offers an experience like no other. So gather your friends or family and embark on a memorable day at this iconic shopping center.