Retrofitting suburban malls

Amid tough financial times and many retail vacancies, the story of a project aiming to turn Randhurst Mall in Mount Prospect, IL into “Main Street.”

A quick blurb from Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin:

“Today, in an act of radical design surgery, Randhurst is being remade into an open-air, mixed-use development that will have many features of a traditional downtown, including shops, movie theaters, offices and a hotel. The dome and core of the mall have been demolished, and next year a developer plans to open an old-fashioned Main Street lined with Prairie Style-influenced buildings in their place (above). There will even be angled parking spaces that promise to let you drive right up to a shop, though chances are you’ll really be parking in a vast field of asphalt much farther away.

The revamped mall already has been given a quaint variation of its original name: Randhurst Village.

The catchphrase for this promising — and provocative — type of remake is “retrofitting suburbia.” From Cape Cod to California, its advocates aim not simply to remake dead malls, strip centers and big boxes, but to alter suburbia itself, making it more dense, more walkable, and sustainable — in short, more urban.”

These sorts of plans are not uncommon in recent decades. A number of architects and planners, often following New Urbanist principles, have tried to create traditional atmospheres among suburban amenities. This story mentions original plans to include roughly 200 residential units but this component was scratched. From a more cynical perspective, this sort of planning is just dressing up suburban big box stores – think of the name change from “Randhurst Mall” to “Randhurst Village.” From a more positive side, changing the design might make malls more palatable to more shoppers and most importantly, more profitable.

(Some interesting pictures in this story highlight the history of this particular mall and the proposed changes.)

4 thoughts on “Retrofitting suburban malls

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