OLD ORCHARD CENTER
Skokie Boulevard / US 41 and Old Orchard Road
Village of Skokie, Illinois

After completing major construction at PARK FOREST PLAZA, Philip Klutznick's American Community Builders embarked on a second cluster-type Chicagoland shopping center. It would be developed in a joint venture with Marshall Field & Company.

OLD ORCHARD CENTER, designed by Richard M. Bennett of Loebl, Schlossman & Bennett, was situated on an 85 acre parcel, located 17.6 miles northwest of The Loop, in suburban Skokie. Work commenced in March 1955.

The completed open-air complex encompassed approximately 1,079,000 leasable square feet and consisted of a main retail level with basements beneath all five store blocks. OLD ORCHARD CENTER was anchored by a 3-level (370,000 square foot) Marshall Field's, which stood at the center of the center. This store held its grand opening October 22, 1956.

A North Mall included the 7-story Professional Building and approximately thirty retail spaces. The South Mall, comprising three store blocks, featured thirty-two inline store spaces as well as the mall's second anchor, a 2-level (83,00 square foot) The Fair. This Chicago-based store was dedicated November 1, 1956.

At the center's October 25, 1956 grand opening, its retail roster included Lerner Shops, Walgreen Drug, Baskin men's wear, Mode Petite, Chandler's Shoes, Baker's Shoes, Kay Howard ladies' wear, Broadstreets men's wear, Burny Brothers Bakery, an S.S. Kresge 5 & 10 and Kroger supermarket.

A 3-level (57,000 square foot) Saks Fifth Avenue made its debut on November 10, 1958. The first theatrical venue in -or around- the mall was built on a pad located .24 mile south of the site. The M & R Old Orchard Theatre showed its first feature on September 2, 1960. The venue, which eventually contained 4 screens, was shuttered in the year 2000.

Meanwhile, The Fair at OLD ORCHARD CENTER had been rebranded by Montgomery Ward in early 1964. In April, Ward's announced that the store would be expanded into a 3-level (114,000 square foot) operation. At the same time, the existing Marshall Field's was enlarged with a 4th level. With its renovation completed, this store encompassed 445,000 square feet.

A subsequent expansion of OLD ORCHARD CENTER took place in the late 1970s. Saks relocated into a 3-level (114,000 square foot) building, on the mall's northeast corner, in September 1978. Two parking structures, the North and West Garages, were also built. The old Saks location was occupied by Lord & Taylor in 1979.

By the late 1980s, OLD ORCHARD had been bested by newer, more trendy shopping venues in the region, such as WOODFIELD MALL (1971) {14.4 miles southwest, in Schaumburg} and NORTHBROOK COURT (1976) {6.9 miles northwest, in Northbrook}.

A renovation of OLD ORCHARD, making it into a more upscale shopping venue, was announced in late 1991. This was to include an expansion of Lord & Taylor into a 3-level (115,000 square foot) structure. The enlarged store was re-dedicated November 10, 1993.

The south end of the mall was demolished and replaced by a 242,000 square foot South Promenade. This extended to a 3-level (199,200 square foot) Nordstrom, which was dedicated on October 7, 1994. The South Promenade included a 600 seat Food Court and the Cineplex Odeon Old Orchard Gardens Cinemas. This 7-screen venue was dedicated on December 16, 1994.

On the north end of the mall, the North Garage was razed. It was replaced by a 154,000 square foot North Promenade, which included a 3-level (206,000 square foot) Bloomingdale's on its west end. This store welcomed its first customers on September 2, 1995.

Moreover, three parking structures -the East, South and (new) North Garages- were constructed. The reconfigured, 1.7 million square foot, OLD ORCHARD CENTER held its official dedication September 1, 1995. New stores included Abercrombie & Fitch, Ann Taylor, Barnes & Noble, Cache, FAO Schwarz, The Limited, Record Town, Talbot's and Victoria's Secret.

A second theater was added on the west end of the South Promenade, which was in operation by the year 2000. The first multiplex became known as the Loews Cineplex Old Orchard Gardens Cinemas 7-13, while the newer theater was named Loews Cineplex Old Orchard Gardens Cinemas 1-6.

OLD ORCHARD CENTER, which had never been enclosed and climate-controlled, was acquired by Australia-based Westfield Holdings (today's Westfield Corporation) in 2002. Its name was changed to WESTFIELD SHOPPINGTOWN OLD ORCHARD, which was truncated to WESTFIELD OLD ORCHARD in June 2005.

Westfield proposed a third major expansion of the property, but eventually decided on a much smaller addition. Work commenced in July 2006. The Saks, and its Off-Fifth basement store, had been shuttered in July 2005. The building was torn down, with 63,000 square feet of new retail space built. Construction was completed in late 2007. The shopping center now encompassed approximately 1,788,800 leasable square feet and contained one hundred and forty stores and services.

The 1995-vintage Food Court at WESTFIELD OLD ORCHARD was reconfigured as the Wilde & Green Natural Market & Restaurant. This (30,000 square foot) facility housed eighteen food stations, with hot foods, a grill, salad bar, sushi shop and coffee bar. There were also a small green grocer and rooftop restaurant and bar.

Installed and maintained by a Toronto-based company, the culinary complex opened July 25, 2011. Unfortunately, it failed to catch on and was shuttered June 23, 2013. Meanwhile, the mall's two multiplex cinemas had gone through a succession of owners; Loews (1998-2006), AMC (2006-2010) and Regal (2010-2016).

Both houses were shuttered in June 2016 and renovated into state-of-the-art venues. The CMX Old Orchard Dine-In (the old Cinemas 1-6) had a soft opening on December 15, 2017. The second CMX theater (the former Cinemas 7-13) was dedicated in 2018.

Westfield's American and European property portfolio was merged into the holdings of Paris-based Unibail-Rodamco in June of the same year. A new company, known as Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield was created. Westfield shopping centers in Australia and New Zealand were not included in the merger.

Sources:

The Chicago Tribune
preservenet.cornell.edu/publications/Longstreth Branch Store.doc
http://www.digitalpast.org
http://www.cinematreasuress.com
Comment post by David J. Hupp
http://www.preservenet.cornell.edu
http://www.skokienet.org
http://www.westfield.com
Cook County, Illinois tax assessor website
www.thepatch.com
www.reuters.com


FAIR USE OF OLD ORCHARD CENTER IMAGES:

The rendering and photos from the Skokie Public Library illustrate a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The images are not replaceable with free-use or public-domain images. The use of the images does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the images in any way. The images are being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and their use is not believed to detract from the original images in any way.