Another suburban Chicago mall goes in on denser housing to revive its fortunes

Yorktown Mall in Lombard is planning to replace a vacant anchor store with hundreds of apartments:

Photo by Pixabay on

The department store closings have turned other enclosed malls into retail ghost towns. But Yorktown has sought to reinvent itself by thinking outside the big box…

Pacific is now teaming up with Chicago-based Synergy Construction on a major overhaul of the west side of the 54-year-old mall. Plans call for replacing the cavernous, three-level Carson’s store and its vast parking lot with an apartment complex and a public park. The residential portion of the development will cost an estimated $201 million over two phases, Lombard officials say…

Pacific and Synergy have not finalized a unit count, but village memos indicate the latest project could bring approximately 700 apartments to Yorktown.

“You start having a critical mass of maybe 1,500 or 2,000 new residents,” Niehaus said. “And when you look at the rent rates that the apartments are generating, it typically lends itself to people that have disposable income that will want to shop or eat or participate in activities.”

Not all malls will survive the coming years. The idea behind replacing stores with apartments or housing is that it is a better use of the space rather than trying to chase a dwindling number of successful retail options and adding residents next to stores, restaurants, and entertainment options means they will spend some of their money in the remaining mall spaces.

Will this ultimately be the successful tactic that either saves some portion of the mall or revitalizes/transitions the space from retail to other uses? Housing is needed in many communities with shopping malls. Will communities recoup the revenue that used to come in through sales taxes? Will the footprint of the mall eventually disappear into the sprawling suburban landscape? As noted in the article, this is not the only Chicago mall pursuing this. See the example of the Fox Valley Mall in Aurora. Wait another thirty years or so and the legacy of the suburban shopping mall – roughly a century old at that point – might be very different.

Lombard mosque approved by DuPage County Board

I’ve been tracking this story in recent months (earlier stories here, here, and here) and it looks like we have a resolution: the DuPage County Board approved plans for a mosque in unincorporated Lombard.

By a 12-4 vote, board members supported revised plans from the Muslim Community Association of Western Suburbs for the Pin Oak Community Center. It will be built just east of Interstate Highway 355, at the southwest corner of Roosevelt Road and Lawler Avenue…

The plan had been controversial because of residents’ objections about traffic down Lawler Avenue into their neighborhood.

But the plan was modified to include an exit onto Roosevelt Road and restrictions on two access drives on Lawler. Also, the association will widen Lawler to three lanes and extend the eastbound lane on Roosevelt Road…

In July, board members deferred their vote on the Pin Oak proposal, but they did deny the group’s plan for a roughly 50-foot-tall dome on the property. The building will not be permitted to exceed 36 feet in height.

It would be interesting to hear the rationale of the 4 board members who voted against this.

The article suggests the controversy about this mosque was due to traffic concerns and the height of the building, typical NIMBY concerns that might be brought up with proposals for any religious structure or any non-religious, non-residential structure. I hope there is a sociologist (or other social scientist) working on testing whether proposals for mosques draw special “NIMBY” attention.

Small Islamic mosque in unincorporated Lombard approved by DuPage County Board

A small mosque for an unincorporated site near Lombard has been approved by the DuPage County Board:

Proclaim Truth Charitable Trust, which currently holds services in Villa Park, won approval to build a one-story, 5,200-square-foot brick and stone mosque on a 1-acre unincorporated site at 1620 S. Highland Avenue.

The board, by a vote of 13-4, endorsed plans for the group’s mosque at the same time that several other zoning applications to construct mosques elsewhere in unincorporated DuPage County have drawn significant opposition from neighbors. Proclaim Truth’s plans attracted minimal public opposition.

However, unlike the other area proposals, which include a recently approved 47,000-square-foot mosque near Willowbrook and a pending proposal for a 43,000-square-foot mosque on the south side of Roosevelt Road just east of Interstate Highway 355 near Lombard, Proclaim Truth plans to build a relatively small worship facility on its 1-acre property on Highland Avenue…

The mosque will have a full-service worship area that will hold no more than 150, along with a classroom for Saturday school, and a men’s and women’s lobby. In addition to the mosque, the group also will construct a 50-space parking lot.

Based on what I have read about this in the Chicago Tribune, here are several things that seemed to be working in this mosque’s favor:

1. When I wrote about this mosque on January 28, 2011, I noted that it sounded like this mosque had “a stronger welcome from residents in the neighborhood” compared to other proposals. This article seconds that idea.

2. The size of this mosque is pretty modest. I would guess this would affect how residential neighbors would view a proposed church, mosque, or other religious center with larger buildings attracting more negative attention.

3. Does it matter that this proposal was approved by DuPage County, which has control over some unincorporated land uses, as opposed to needing approval from a particular municipality? The article suggests other proposals for unincorporated land have drawn more opposition so it sounds like it is more about the neighbors than it is about who grants final approval.

4. Speaking of neighbors, if you look up the site, 1620 South Highland Avenue, Lombard, IL, Google Maps shows two nearby congregations: Chicago Christadelphian Ecclesia and Congregation Etz Chaim. Did the presence of these two groups drive the positive neighborhood response?

Mosque proposed for unincorporated site in DuPage County

The Chicago area has experienced several proposals in recent years for mosques to be built in the suburbs. Several proposals have been in DuPage County where communities or the County have rejected plans. There is a new proposal being brought forward now for an unincorporated site near Lombard, meaning it will be under review by DuPage County:

Proclaim Truth Charitable Trust is seeking a conditional-use permit that would allow it to demolish a 65-year-old single-family house along Highland Avenue and construct a new 5,200-square-foot mosque.

Sabet Siddiqui, the group’s representative, stressed to members of DuPage County’s zoning board of appeals Thursday night that the proposed mosque would be used by about 100 families who live in the area and currently attend services in Villa Park.

“Unlike other mosques and synagogues and churches that you folks have heard in the past, this is a different scale and different scope,” Siddiqui told the board. “It’s a small neighborhood mosque.”…

Siddiqui said he believes the mosque would be “a perfect fit” for a neighborhood that already has two churches and a synagogue. He said the brick and masonry structure is designed to “match the surrounding residences as much as possible.”

Almost all the residents who attended Thursday night’s public hearing voiced support for the plan, including a representative from neighboring Congregation Etz Chaim.

In comparison to some of the other cases, it sounds like this particular proposal is experiencing a stronger welcome from residents in the neighborhood.

It would be interesting to do a study of these cases that have popped up in recent years. Do Christian churches experience the same kind of process and complaints that mosques do? How exactly do nearby residents voice concerns – it is typical NIMBY material like traffic, parking, and noise or are there broader issues brought up in the cases of the mosques? Is the support or concerns about the proposed mosques tied more to the size of the mosque or is it more about the demographics of the surrounding neighborhood?