Evolution of Northbrook Court
2171 Northbrook Court, Northbrook, IL, 60062
Facility built: 1976
Facility opening: N/A
stores in former: J.C. Penney, Sears, I.Magnin, Gap Shoes, and many
stores: 125, including Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, AMC
Theaters, and Crate & Barrel Home Store. See mall website for full
not often that Framingham/Natick Retail would profile a shopping center
nearly halfway across the country. Even more so, why profile a center
that General Growth hasn't discussed comparing a new Natick Mall to?
Northbrook Court is a key example of what we don't want to see the new
Natick Mall become. It has plenty of excellent, high profile tenants
ranging from Neiman Marcus to Max Mara, combined with unique
restaurants like P.F. Chang's and Corner Bakery Cafe. Yet it has taken
nearly 30 years for this mall to create a vision for what it wants
itself to be, and will take longer to at last achieve it. Can an
upscale mall survive near other upscale shopping areas like the Old
Orchard Mall in Skokie, IL and downtown Winnetka, IL; or for us,
shopping areas like Wellesley Center and the malls of Newton? Let's
Northbrook Court has a somewhat interesting history: basically, it
wasn't supposed to be built. In 1976, a developer proposed building
2,300 apartments on a large piece of unincorporated land near
Northbrook, IL. Northbrook didn't want the apartments to be built, but
the village didn't really have a say as the land was unincorporated. As
the developer faced a long court battle over the apartments, he
proposed to build a shopping center with a small residential complex.
That time, Northbrook agreed. Although the mall would be built, the
neighboring village of Highland Park ended up suing the state of
Illinois: first for a share of the mall's tax revenue; then later over
the annexation going to Northbrook. Both suits failed.
Initially, the mall had a fairly stale batch of retailers: A lackluster
Sears was one of the mall's first anchor stores which would replaced in
1983 by the equally downmarket J.C. Penney. Together with the
slightly-more upscale I.Magnin flagshipped the mall that shouldn't have
been built. At one point, two of the mall's four anchors were vacant.
Like with the Natick Mall, it was located in a financially-attractive
area, but shoppers were instead several miles away to the Old Orchard
Mall in Skokie (or in Natick's case, The Mall at Chestnut Hill in
Newton). The mall got some moderate national attention in the
mid-1980s, where the mall was used for several scenes in the movie
Eventually, the mall was able to snag Lord & Taylor as a tenant,
along with a Neiman Marcus that refused to stay open on weeknights. Yet
while the Neiman Marcus was fairly successful with its unique schedule,
Neiman's shoppers rarely entered the mall corridor. In 1995, the mall
was entirely renovated, and filled the vacant J.C. Penney site with a
the last full-service Marshall Field's store to ever open (not unlike
Natick, with the last Jordan Marsh store to open), and in 1997,
Northbrook Court added a 14-screen General Cinema movie theater on the
site of the I.Magnin (which had been vacant for three years before any
plans were pitched), which became an AMC Theater when General Cinema
was acquired in 2002. The mall also served as a testing ground for the
GapBody chain in 1998, and had been a testing ground for the
forgettable "Gap Shoes" chain in 1992.
In 1998, General Growth acquired Northbrook Court from the Canadian
developer Grosvenor, which was around the same time that the company
acquired the Natick Mall. Slowly, changes were made: General Growth
worked to find different tenants than the ones at Old Orchard. By the
start of the new millenium, In 2001, Crate and Barrel opened a massive,
36,000 sq. ft. flagship store on a mall outlot. In 2002, the mall
announced plans to add more restaurants, high-end boutiques, and
children's stores, while that same year opening the first Land of Nod
store. In 2003, a 500-million dollar renovation brought a children's
area to the mall.Yet in 2005, the mall manager noted in an interview
that the mall wasn't doing well as too many of the mall's tenants
targetted children. Also in 2005, the upscale Di Pescara and food
court-fodder Magic Pan opened as part of an agreement with local
restauranteer Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. 2006 brought the end
of Marshall Field's, as the Northbrook store became a Macy's.
So, what can we learn about upscale malls for Natick? For one, the
MetroWest area doesn't have an upscale mall like Old Orchard in such
proximity. The Newton malls may have more upscale stores than Natick,
but access to the Atrium Mall and The Mall at Chestnut Hill, both on
Rt. 9, isn't all that easy: meanwhile, Old Orchard is a gigantic mall,
located directly off a major interstate. And Natick can expect some
issues getting that target customer in unless it is planned right.
Right now, Northbrook is looking toward restaurants and upscale stores
to get the customers in; that's exactly what GGP is planning for
Natick. Should it be executed successfully like Tyson's Galleria
outside of Washington, D.C.; we'll have a giant success. The affluent
area demographic is there for the Natick Mall, and the retailers all
want in. If GGP gets the right tenants in on the first shot, which I am
optimistic that they will, we won't have a Northbrook on our hands.
My Pictures: April 8-9, 2007
Fast forward a year, and
there's a somewhat substantial difference on the outside of the mall.
As with the rest of the chain, the Northbrook Marshall Field's has
become a Macy's. (Interestingly, many of the decendents of the Field
family live in nearby Lake Forest, where Federated has been unable to
get the green awnings outside of the 20,000 sq. ft. Lake Forest Macy's
changed to Macy's red)
The interior of the mall has a
unique style. Tile, wood, and a material that is somewhat of a
faux-concrete combine to create an elegant feel.
My Pictures: May 12-14,
Here is the Marshall Field's that took over from J.C. Penney in 1995,
and would be the final full-service store in the chain to open. This
fall, the nameplate is slated to change to Macy's. Note the crumbling
parking lot that mirrors the Sherwood Plaza lot... presumably the green
bush-filled parking dividers haven't made their way to the Midwest yet.
This flagship Crate & Barrel is among the largest in the chain,
which would make sense given that the company is headquartered in
This somewhat blurry shot is of the mall's P.F. Chang's China Bistro
outlot. As with all P.F. Chang's, the obligatory horse is located on
the right of the photo. I wonder where the Natick Mall horse will be
The signage listed at the first intersection (heading west) of Lake
Cook Rd. and Northbrook Court, listing all of the Mall's anchor tenants.
Related Links: Can General Growth Manage Luxury Malls?,
From Wonder Bread to the Natick
Collection 2007 Expansion, General
Growth Properties, Northbrook
Court at GGP.com.
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