NORTHWOODS MALL
West War Memorial Drive / US 150 and West Scenic Drive
City of Peoria, Illinois

The first fully-enclosed shopping center in Greater Peoria was officially dedicated in September 1972. Encompassing approximately 500,000 leasable square feet, PEKIN MALL was located in an unincorporated section of Tazewell County known as Pekin Heights.

At the time that PEKIN MALL was being completed, a second mall was under construction on a 56 acre site, lying 3.4 miles northwest of downtown Peoria. NORTHWOODS MALL was being developed by a joint venture of Chicago's Carson Pirie Scott (a.k.a. Carson's), Montgomery Ward and J.C. Penney. The complex was designed by Chicago's Sidney H. Morris & Associates.

Plans for a northern Peoria shopping hub had been conceived by Carson Pirie Scott, who had purchased land (which eventually became the NORTHWOODS MALL site) in 1961. Soon after, Ward's and Penney's committed to the project. Construction would be delayed by litigation instigated by center city Peoria merchants in 1965.

The lawsuit was settled in 1969 and the City of Peoria approved construction of the mall in 1970. The first shovel of earth was turned October 26, 1971. The 25 million dollar NORTHWOODS MALL was officially dedicated August 16, 1973. 

Consisting of 2 retail levels, NORTHWOODS MALL encompassed approximately 684,000 leasable square feet and housed over one hundred stores and services. The initial complex was anchored by a 2-level (155,500 square foot) Carson's and 2-level (149,800 square foot) Montgomery Ward. J.C. Penney's 2-level (156,400 square foot) store commenced operation January 2, 1974.

Original tenants included Radio Shack, Seno & Sons Formal Wear, Campus Music Shop, Jeans West, Petrie Shoes, Brown's Sporting Goods, Lane Bryant, Orange Bowl, Singer Sewing Center, Foxmoor Casuals, Musicland, a Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor and Peoria Inn Restaurant. The mall's interior decor included sunken seating areas, a 40-foot-high Center Court sculpture and 4-faced Center Court clock tower.

Anchor rebrandings began early on. Carson's closed in 1983, with a St. Louis-based Famous-Barr opening for business on October 3, 1985. The Ward's store became the next anchor to change nameplates. It was shuttered November 15, 1997 and re-opened, as a Sears, September 19, 1998.

Meanwhile, ownership of the mall had changed hands. Carson's sold their 33 percent interest, to Cleveland's Richard E. Jacobs Group, in May 1983. Montgomery Ward sold their share to Melvin Simon & Associates (today's Simon Property Group) in October of the same year. Eventually, Simon would establish full ownership of the property.

The mall's position as preeminent retail venue in the area had been threatened in 1988, when a downtown mall was proposed for Peoria's center city. This project was eventually abandoned. Plans for RIVER CITY GALLERIA, which was to be built in the city's northwestern environs, were announced in May 1997. This project became a hotly-contested issue for years to come.

Meanwhile, Simon was wanting to expand its NORTHWOODS property. They were thwarted by the city government, who felt that the mall site was not large enough to accommodate any substantial enlargement of the existing structure. However, a small addition to Famous-Barr, increasing its area to 165,500 square feet, had been allowed in the early 1990s.

By 1998, plans for RIVER CITY GALLERIA had been scraped and replaced with designs for an open-air facility, tentatively named THE PROMENADE. After years of failed attempts, a retail rival for NORTHWOODS MALL finally opened for business in April 2003.

THE SHOPPES AT GRAND PRAIRIE was built on the prospective GALLERIA / PROMENADE site, which was located 3.3 miles northwest of NORTHWOODS MALL. The new retail complex encompassed 490,000 leasable square feet and contained seventy stores and services.

To keep NORTHWOODS MALL competitive, a 20 million dollar renovation was undertaken in 2005. A 10-bay Food Court was installed at the Upper Level Main Entrance. Moreover, 1970s-vintage seating areas and fountains were removed, with new lighting installed throughout the complex. Soon after the renovation was completed, Famous-Barr was rebannered. The store opened with a Macy's nameplate on September 9, 2006.

In May 2014, the Simon Property Group created a spin-off Real Estate Investment Trust, known as the Washington Prime Group,. This entity assumed ownership of forty-four of Simon's "Grade B" malls, including NORTHWOODS. In early 2015, the newly-formed Washington Prime Group merged with Columbus, Ohio's Glimcher Realty Trust.

Macy's pulled the proverbial plug on their NORTHWOODS store in March 2016. The vacant building was repurposed with two retailers. A (50,000 square foot) Round 1 Bowling & Amusement Center occupied Lower Level space. The facility was dedicated November 18, 2017.

The Upper Level was reconfigured as a (62,000 square foot) TheRoomPlace furniture store, which welcomed its first shoppers in mid-2018. With these modifications, NORTHWOODS MALL housed approximately 694,000 leasable square feet and contained over ninety inline stores.

Sources:

www.labelscar.com / "Prange Way"
www.simon.com
The Peoria Chronicle
Comment post by Randy
www.eyecorp.com
Peoria County, Illinois property tax assessor website
http://www.dmassociates.com (DMS Development Management Associates)