Northbrook Court upgrades expected to resume


Claire Satkiewicz

Shopper’s Find at Northbrook Court holds a sale before the store’s closure. Renovations of the mall have been paused due to COVID-19, but a new plan was requested to be presented to the village in December.

In the shadow of the torn-down Macy’s, tall metal fences line the border of Northbrook Court’s blocked-off west-side parking lots. Construction beams are visible to drivers on Lake Cook Road, and signs surround the property reading “Great things are happening.”

Over the last few years, several flagship retailers have closed at Northbrook Court, including Lord & Taylor, H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch and Macy’s. 

Senior Aaron Taber, who works at the mall’s AMC Theatres, used to love going to Northbrook Court with friends in middle school and early high school.

Taber has recently noticed more closures at the mall and fewer options for dining, and he now prefers spending time with friends at other shopping centers that have more amenities for his age group, he said. 

“It feels like every year, [Northbrook Court] gets worse,” said Taber. “I remember I used to go to the Macy’s and Starbucks there, which both aren’t even there anymore. I started going to Old Orchard instead.”

The Village of Northbrook approved a plan outlined by Northbrook Court’s owner, Brookfield Properties, for renovations designed to bring foot traffic back to the mall in 2019. The plan included the addition of 315 luxury condos, large amounts of outdoor space, multiple levels of parking and a high-end grocery store. Brookfield Properties created the plan to modernize the mall by  creating an integrative space for indoor and outdoor shopping areas. In 2020, the renovations were paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Brookfield Properties was told they must present an updated renovation plan to the village by the end of the calendar year, Northbrook Village Manager Cara Pavlicek said.

“I have a lot of confidence that Brookfield Properties can come forward to the village and talk to us about what will work in today’s market and what Northbrook Court should look like in the next 10 years,” said Pavlicek. “There’s some incredibly strong retailers at the mall, and we need to, as a village, work in partnership with Brookfield Properties to move forward into the future.”

Brookfield Properties did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.

Throughout the country, similar renovation projects are underway to reinvent the idea of “the mall,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail.

“When you look at a lot of these old malls, they’re actually not very nice,” said Saunders. “They’re just basically big, anonymous boxes. They often really don’t have a lot of natural light in them. They’re very old fashioned. They all have a very similar configuration.”

While malls as a whole are not “dying,” those with a strong mix of popular retail and leisure options are the future of malls in America because they appeal to a younger demographic, Saunders said.  

“One of the problems with malls like Northbrook Court is that they were all developed in exactly the same way,” Saunders said.

“I think the modernization [of malls] is doing things like bringing a lot more natural light, a lot more green spaces, a lot more outdoor spaces, a lot more variability in terms of how the malls look and a lot of spaces where people can just linger even if they’ve not come to shop,” Saunders said.

“If you fast forward, say 10 or 20 years, I don’t think malls will have disappeared,” said Saunders. “[But] they will look and feel different.”

According to Pavlicek, the village believes the redevelopment of Northbrook Court will draw consumers back into the mall and provide more revenue for the Village of Northbrook.

Generally speaking, if the property owner makes the investment, you will see a positive impact on the mall,” Pavlicek said.

According to Taber, he hopes the renovations will decrease the gap between the popularity of the movie theater and the popularity of the rest of the mall. 

“I know people will just come to Northbrook Court for the AMC and not spend any time in the mall,” said Taber. “We don’t really attract [as many] people coming into the mall anymore. People come to AMC just to see a movie. I definitely think [the renovations] will help.”