OAKBROOK CENTER
West 22nd Street (Cermak Road) and Kingery Highway
Village of Oak Brook, Illinois

The tenth shopping mall in Chicagoland was developed by a joint venture of the Windy City's Marshall Field & Company and the Urban Investment & Development Company, under the auspices of Phillip Klutznick. He had been instrumental in the creation of the PARK FOREST PLAZA (1949) and OLD ORCHARD CENTER (1956) shopping complexes.

Construction began on OAKBROOK CENTER in 1960. The 25 million dollar facility was built on a 160 acre parcel, located 16.3 miles west of The Loop, in suburban Oak Brook. Open-air in format, the complex was designed by Richard Marsh Bennett, of the Loebl, Schlossman & Bennett firm. Buildings were configured with Ground (or "Mall") Levels and basements.

Thirty-seven stores and services were dedicated March 5, 1962. Speaking at the inauguration were Illinois Senators Everett P. Dirksen (R) and Paul Douglas (D). Anchoring the mall were a 4-level (365,000 square foot) Marshall Field & Company and 3-level (285,000 square foot) Sears.

The fully-leased shopping center housed forty-one stores and services. These included Walgreen Drug, Stuarts Ready-To-Wear For Ladies, Maurice L. Rothschild, Fabric Mart, an S.S. Kresge 5 & 10, Jewel Supermarket and 3-level (66,000 square foot), New York City-based Bonwit Teller.

In its original incarnation, OAKBROOK CENTER encompassed 1,300,000 leasable square feet, making it the second-largest shopping center in the United States (New Jersey's GARDEN STATE PLAZA being the largest).

The first motion picture venue at the mall, the Balaban & Klatz Oakbrook Theatre, opened December 25, 1964. The freestanding venue was twinned in 1983 and reconfigured as a tri-plex in 1984.

Meanwhile, commercial competitors had entered the marketplace. YORKTOWN CENTER {2.8 miles west, in Lombard} was completed in 1968. WOODFIELD MALL {13.8 miles northwest, in Schaumburg} opened in 1971. There was also NORTH RIVERSIDE PARK MALL {7.1 miles east, in North Riverside}, which was dedicated in 1975.

A third anchor department store was added to OAKBROOK CENTER in the early 1970s. A structure housing Maurice L. Rothschild was demolished and replaced by a 2-level (101,900 square foot), New York City-based Lord & Taylor. This store was dedicated February 20, 1973.

A larger expansion got underway in 1980. The southeast corner of the mall was expanded with a 2-level -twenty tenant- store block and three anchor department stores. Dallas-based Neiman Marcus dedicated their 3-level (113,000 square foot) operation August 28, 1981.

A 3-level (91,000 square foot), New York City-based Saks Fifth Avenue began business September 11, 1981. San Francisco's I. Magnin also completed a 2-level (81,000 square foot) store in the same year. OAKBROOK CENTER now encompassed approximately 1,660,000 leasable square feet.

In the fall of 1987, another 2-level store block and a parking garage were completed. These were adjacent to a new Southeast Wing. This housed the Cineplex Odeon Oakbrook Center Cinemas 1-4, which showed its first features on December 25, 1987. The original 3-screen venue was rebranded as the Cineplex Odeon Oakbrook Center Cinemas 5-7.

A subsequent expansion of OAKBROOK CENTER was announced in July 1989. This was to include a 2-level (248,000 square foot) Northeast Wing, 3-level (220,000 square foot) Nordstrom and three parking garages. A full enclosure of mall courts and concourses was considered but not carried out.

Nordstrom's store, the sixty-fourth in the Seattle-based chain and first in the Midwest, held its official grand opening April 5, 1991. In other areas of the mall, anchor alterations were underway. The first involved Bonwit Teller, a 1962 charter tenant. It was shuttered in June 1990. Crate & Barrel, which had opened their very first shopping mall store at OAKBROOK CENTER in 1971, relocated into the Bonwit Teller space.

I. Magnin closed February 16, 1991, with its space divided into four inline stores. These included Eddie Bauer and Tiffany & Company. Saks shut down in December 2002. New York City-based Bloomingdale's renovated the building and opened its third Home & Furniture Store on September 12, 2003.

The two Oakbrook Cinema complexes had also been shuttered early in the 21st century. The in-mall 1-4 showed its final features February 19, 2001 and was refitted as additional retail area. The 5-7 was in operation until 2003. It was demolished and replaced by a Cheesecake Factory, which opened in August 2004.

Between 2001 and 2004, OAKBROOK CENTER changed hands three times. The first buyer, Chicago-based Urban Retail Properties, sold to Holland-based Rodamco in June 2001. In turn, the Maryland-based Rouse Company acquired the property in May 2002.

When Chicago-based General Growth Properties acquired the portfolio of the Rouse Company, in November 2004, OAKBROOK CENTER became a GGP holding. By this time, the mall encompassed around 2,090,000 leasable square feet.

Marshall Field's was engulfed by the Macy's conglomerate on September 9, 2006. The shuttering of the Bloomingdale's Home & Furniture Store created a major vacancy in early 2012.

The next 2 years were spent remodeling common areas, downsizing stores and finding new tenants for empty spaces. A two-phase court and concourse redesign added new landscaping, outdoor seating, fountains, entertainment venues and Fire Totems (to provide heat for wintertime shoppers). The court fronting on Crate & Barrel became a Village Green, whose centerpiece was a year-round Vortex Fountain. An Amenities Pavilion was installed near Sears.

The vacant Saks / Bloomingdale's Home building was divided into six tenant spaces. On Level 1 were new Lululemon Athletica, Tommy Bahama, Boss Hugo Boss and Artizia stores. Level 2 was occupied by a (30,400 square feet) Pirch, which sold high-end fixtures for kitchen, bath & outdoors. The Lower Level became a (27,000 square foot) Container Store. 

Sears also began a major downsizing of their 3-level store in 2013. The initial project partitioned a section of Level 1 space, with new PB Kids and West Elm stores created. These opened in September and October 2013. The revitalized OAKBROOK mall was officially re-dedicated November 22nd.

The northeast store block was reconfigured between 2015 and 2016. Four Level 2 store spaces were gutted and rebuilt as The District At Oakbrook Center, a 9-bay food court. Motion pictures also returned to the mall, following a 13-year hiatus. The American Multi-Cinema Oakbrook Center 12 showed its first features October 13, 2016.

Sears closed (temporarily) in September 2017. The Lower Level was reconfigured into a substantially downsized (80,000 square foot) store. Level 1 space was subdivided further. The existing PB Kids and West Elm stores were joined by L.L. Bean, Ballard Designs and other tenants. KidZania, a children's "experiential learning", interactive mini-city facility, was installed on Level 2.

The freestanding Sears Auto Center, which was shuttered in March 2018, was demolished and replaced by a new fitness club. The Sears downsizing and reconfiguration project was completed in 2019.

Sources:

"Oakbrook Center" article on Wikipedia
http://www.labelscar.com
http://www.oakbrookcenter.com
http://pleasantfamilyshopping.blogspot.com
Comment post by Kyle
www.cinematreasures.org
http://www.ggp.com (General Growth Properties)
The Chicago Tribune


FAIR USE OF OAKBROOK CENTER IMAGES:

The photos from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries illustrate a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The images are of lower resolution than the originals (copies made would be of inferior quality). 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.