Nearly as synonymous and the City of Schaumburg in which it resides, The Woodfield Mall has been a staple of the Schaumburg community since 1971. From its inception, it’s been an inviting shopping destination for those in surrounding communities as well as those living in Chicago and its suburbs.
Located just off I-90 at exit 53 or 55A (depending on which direction you’re coming from), what started out as a small set of stores and restaurants quickly grew into one of the nation’s largest retail destinations, housing more than 200 retailers and 16 full-service restaurants today. While still a huge draw for shoppers and tourists alike, the was the largest shopping center in the country at the time, and it help to mold the way that people shopped.
In our article today, we will explore how this once quaint suburban mall evolved into such an important retail center for consumers in the area and as a model for other malls around the country.
Originally designed by the Taubman Centers development group, a family-owned company established in the early 1900s, the New York-based company wanted a more integrated retail experience for shopping customers while providing an partially enclosed space for all-year shopping. Originally planned for 1,900,000 square feet making it the largest mall in the United States at the time, it was situated in a newly developed and growing area of the northwest suburbs of Chicago with easy access to both 90 and 53 / 355. At the time of the mall’s planning the City of Schaumburg only had 19,000 people within it’s border, significantly less than the 75,000 today.
The mall first opened its doors on March 17, 1971. Marketed to the public as an open-air plaza that had about 50 stores and restaurants with space for 2,000 cars to park near it. There were also meeting rooms for groups of 80-100 people and a small theater seating 150 people.Although the original design called for two ice skating rinks (one inside and one outside), but these plans never came to fruition because the developer couldn’t find any sponsors or investors to help fund them.
In 1974, due to increased demand from shoppers, the idea of an enclosed mall was proposed by real estate investors Donald J. Gralike and William Matson Rothman.
This new indoor mall was now planned to have skylights and art displays, as well as a department store, junior anchors, an underground parking garage, and more than 200 stores. The original design of the mall had five sections. This included the three existing anchor stores that exist today (Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, and JCPenney) as well as a Carson Pirie Scott & Co. within the mall and an older, now-defunct Sears store outside of the mall.
Mall construction began in February 1975 to both develop the outdoor plaza into an enclosed mall and demolish the Sears store to make room for JCPenney. The new mall opened its doors on August 11, 1977. The mall’s opening brought in about 14 million visitors the first week and made Woodfield one of the largest malls in America when it was at its completion.
Since then, slight changes have been made to the mall such as inline stores changing locations and an increasing number of vacant spots throughout its history. Despite this, some renovations have been made as well. In 1993, a new food court opened up to provide mall-goers with more dining options. In 2000, the entire first level of the mall was remodeled to update its appearance and make way for more stores. And finally in 2011, a new PlayPlace was built near the food court for children to enjoy.
Today, the Woodfield Mall has over 200 stores and restaurants with an estimate of 20,000 visitors per day. It is currently owned by Westfield Group after a merger between Westfield America and The Rouse Company took place in 2004.