Photo by Dermot Connolly
Chris Gary, a member of the Orland Park Economic Development Advisory Board explains to the Village Board on Monday why the advisory board endorsed plans for an AMC theater to be built where Sears is now in Orland Square Mall
Members of the Orland Park Economic Advisory Board urged the Village Board during a meeting on Monday to approve plans for an AMC movie theater to replace the Sears store now slated to close in Orland Square Mall in April.
Seritage Growth Properties, which owns the two-story Sears site, outlined its plans at a Village Board last October for redevelopment of the 90,580-sq.ft. upper level of the 200,000-sq. ft. property, along with the adjoining 21,206-sq. ft. Sears Auto Car Center. Plans include turning the second story, which has already been leased to AMC Theatres, into a new 10-screen, 49,777-sq. ft. AMC multiplex.
The remaining sections of the property are expected to be redeveloped into “outward facing” stores and restaurants, according to Seritage. The company plans to invest $40 million in the project, and is not asking for incentives from the village.
Since the plans were first announced, company officials announced that the Sears location would be closing, so Advisory Board members Jack Smith and Chris Gary said that approving the plans for the theater are even more important to the economic viability of the mall and the village as a whole.
Neither the trustees nor Mayor Keith Pekau have expressed any opposition to the plans.
When the closure of Sears was announced, the mayor said “Sears going dark will cost us approximately $890,000 in sales and property tax revenue annually, but Seritage’s plans will offset that, generating over $1.5 million in annual revenue to the village. We look forward to continuing to work with them on their re-development plans for the remaining property.”
And Smith started out by saying that he wanted the Village Board to know that his group “wholeheartedly endorsed” the theater plans completely.
He and Gary pointed to a report they drew up showing how detrimental it could be to the village as a whole if the plans fell through and the site were left vacant.
However, Trustee Kathy Fenton noted that some residents have voiced “real concerns” about a new theater in the mall creating problems and a need for more security.
In response to those concerns, others said that the latest statistics due to be released this week show that Orland Park remains one of the safest communities in Illinois, with crime levels going down at the mall as well. Trustee Carole Ruzich said that Orland Square is still considered the safest mall in northern Illinois.
Smith also noted that Orland Square Mall is the biggest employer and tax generator in the village. But with Sears closing, it could have a negative effect on the whole mall if nothing replaces it quickly.
Gary, a village resident and an industrial real estate broker, said that Credit Suisse, a bank and retail analyst, predicted this year that up to 25 percent of malls in the United States will close by 2022. He asserted that the other anchor stores at Orland Square, including JCPenney, Carson Pirie Scott and Macy’s are not doing much better than Sears so the village should be prepared for more closures.
“If you don’t allow Seritage to do this, I fear for the mall. It is far too big a risk to take that retail is going to bounce back,” he said.
Gary also pointed out that Simon Properties, which owns the mall, successfully brought a movie theater into Oak Brook Mall, one of its other properties.
“Seritage and AMC would not be making this level of investment if they did not feel it would be successful,” he said. “This should be a top priority. I certainly fear for the mall if you do not get behind this. If not, it could be a march to the end for Orland Square Mall.”
“We certainly want the mall to remain here, and not return to a sod farm,” said Smith, referring to what the land was before Orland Square opened in 1976.
No action is scheduled to be taken on the plans until February, when Seritage officials are expected to come before the Plan Commission, and several trustees said they would have questions for Seritage then. The plans will then proceed to the full Village Board.
Pekau said after the meeting that if everything goes smoothly, Seritage expects to begin construction of the new development this year, with the theater open in time for the holiday season of 2019.