Lakehurst Mall
Lakehurst Mall was the first regional shopping complex in the northern Chicago suburb county of Lake County. It was built in 1971 to service the growing town of Waukegan, the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, and eventually the far northern suburban sprawl of Chicago. After several years of decline, Lakehurst closed in 2001, and was demolished in 2004.

The beginning
The planning for Lakehurst Mall began with the December 1968 purchase and annexation of 200 acres (0.81 km 2) of farmland into Waukegan, Illinois. This plot of land - purchased from Thomas E. Wilson/Edellyn Farms for $2 million - was located at Illinois Route 120 (Belvedere Road) and Illinois Route 43 (Waukegan Road), close to the popular Tri-State Tollway. The developers' plan was to build a mixed-use (commercial/office/residential) project, named "Lakehurst", on this sprawling site. This plan developed after a five-year research project of Lake County concluded that Lake County would be one of the fastest developing areas of the Midwest. Lakehurst Mall - along with office and residential areas surrounding the mall - would be built to service this new population. The mall was designed by Sidney H. Morris and Associates of Chicago and Gruen Associates of Los Angeles; Gruen was a well-known name in mall construction, dating from their pioneering 1956 design of Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota. Initially, Arthur Rubloff & Co. of Chicago was the management and leasing agent for Lakehurst. Construction on the mall began about one year later, in September 1969. The new mall was substantially larger than other malls in the area, at 1.1 million square feet (102,000 m²); it included three major department stores and about 100 smaller stores, some never before seen in the Lakehurst area. The architectural style reflected trends of the time: the Carson Pirie Scott anchor was built in alternating stripes of cream- and salmon-colored brick, with complementary red accents and logos, a wild departure from previous store designs; the Wieboldt's anchor featured arched facades and a gazebo; the JC Penney anchor was built in the same style of other JC Penney stores of the era and featured "Penney's" signage. The mall included a large center court - dominated by a glittering chrome mobile and a circular fountain - and four wings, each color-coded and designed to lead to an anchor tenant. Each entrance to the mall had a color-coded entrance: green, red, yellow, or blue. (A fourth anchor, believed to be a Sears or Bergner's store ,was planned to open about five years later at the end of the blue wing, but this never came to pass) A convenience center, which included the Chicago-native grocery store Jewel-Osco, was added to the original plan, as were over 6,000 parking spaces. To get customers to their destination, the two major roads around the mall were widened and fitted with signs directing traffic to the new mall and to the newly developed area.

The 1970s
The mall, with a sign incorporating an image of a bird flying over a blue background, officially opened on August 19, 1971 with a large celebration, welcoming the new mall to Lake County and the Waukegan area. Over 5,000 people attended the opening day ceremonies, including the mayor of Waukegan. However, skepticism also greeted the mall's opening, based on fears of a negative economic impact on downtown Waukegan shops and the smaller Belvidere Mall. Very few Waukegan-based shops were ever in Lakehurst Mall because of the high operating costs. The 1970s was the best-performing decade of the mall's history. Outparcels of the mall site were developed into the General Cinema Lakehurst 12 movie theatre (which opened in 1974) and restaurants such as Red Lobster. An apartment complex with over 200 apartment buildings was completed by the mid-1970s. Access roads were added on the two major roads as well as a multi-level interchange between Route 120 and Route 43. Special events at the mall were common throughout the 1970s. The center court of the mall was a hot spot, with events such as the Waukegan Auto Show, the Midwest Antique Show, and free public concerts. A team of trampolinists tried (but failed) to set a record for continuous trampoline bouncing in a well-publicized stunt. A monthly newsletter, The Lakehurst News, was created for the mall's merchants' association; it was also included in neighborhood newspapers and acted as the mall's calendar of events. Problems arose shortly after the mall's opening. Debates began over the annexation of the mall property, with critics arguing over whether the mall was actually in Waukegan or not. The new road improvements also cost more than the original price, sparking additional debates. Despite these problems, the mall reported ever-increasing annual earnings for its first decade, peaking at $134 million in 1981 (the last year the mall reported earnings publicly). In 1979, the flashy design of Lakehurst was remodeled using a softer, earth-based palette (again reflecting trends of the time). The bright green, yellow, and red colors were replaced by oak paneling; however, the blue colors - seen as symbolic of the old mall and the logo of Lakehurst Mall - were retained. Two fountains were added to the shopping center, and carpet was also installed throughout the center court.

The 1980s
The 1980s brought several new stores and a Marriott hotel to the area. Pier 1 Imports and Service Merchandise were built on outparcels. More improvements were undertaken, including the repaving and rebuilding of Lakehurst Road and the parking lots. The older stores were remodeled. October 1982 brought new management. Jacobs, Visconsi, and Jacobs (a.k.a. the Jacobs Group), a Cleveland, Ohio-based manager of shopping malls, bought the actual mall and the convenience center from Arthur Rubloff. (The anchor properties were owned by their respective department stores.) The JC Penney Auto Shop closed in 1983 at part of a national decision by JC Penney to leave the auto repair business. Additionally, the Globe Company - a local Lake County company, founded in 1898 - went bankrupt and closed their Lakehurst Mall store in 1985. In August 1986, the Wieboldt's anchor went out of business, prior to the eventual closure of the entire chain. Wieboldt's management blamed the closure on the extensive distance between this store and their Chicago distribution hub, which incurred substantial expenses. The company sold their location to the Jacobs Group. The location being vacant came as a blessing when 1986 brought floods to Gurnee, Illinois, severely damaging two of the city's three elementary schools. Students in kindergarten through fourth grade were housed in the sole undamaged elementary school, while more than 600 fifth through eighth grade students were housed in the old Wieboldt's space. The space was informally known as "Wieboldt U" during that time, and the former store's shelving units were used for school storage. After the school was renovated and the "Wieboldt U" students left, Dunham's Sports became an anchor on the lower level; several months later, Montgomery Ward moved into the upper level and built a new auto service center on an outparcel. The Montgomery Ward store had previously been located in the Belvidere Mall a few miles down Route 120. With the major anchor at Belvidere Mall gone, most thought that Belvidere Mall would close soon. It turned out that Lakehurst would close before Belvidere would.

The 1990s and 2000s
On August 8, 1991, Gurnee Mills opened seven miles (11 km) away from Lakehurst. The newer, larger Gurnee Mills proved a much larger draw than expected, devastating Lakehurst's retail base. The decade began in promising fashion, with 100 tenants still leasing. But by 1997, about fifty businesses remained in the mall, with the number decreasing by the month. In early 1998, both Montgomery Ward and JCPenney pulled out of Lakehurst, leaving Carson Pirie Scott as the sole anchor. The Jacobs Group sold Lakehurst in the summer of 1998; the price was $30 million, a little less than that of the sale price in 1982. Fewer than five tenants remained by 2000. These included the Gift Tree and Barbary Coast stores in the mall, as well as the Carson Pirie Scott anchor. When the leases on the two mall stores ended on January 31, 2001, the mall was shuttered and, with only Carson's still in operation, the "Lakehurst era" ended. During the mall's final days, a portion of the upcoming film "'77" was filmed inside the former KB Toys building.

Preparations for the demolition of the mall began in 2003, when ownership officially changed from the Jacobs Group to the Shaw Company of Oak Brook, Illinois. The demolition began in November 2003, near the JCPenney store. Despite this, Carson's stayed open for the Christmas season and closed on January 15, 2004. The JCPenney section of the mall was demolished in February 2004, the Wieboldt's/Montgomery Ward section was next, and the Carson's section was the last to be razed. The gazebo of the Wieboldts anchor outlasted the anchor, but was removed just after the Carson's anchor was razed.

Building Activity

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