Sunday, May 29, 2011

Facelift or substance for Orland Park Mall improvement?

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I was really excited when I heard that the owners of the Orland Mall, Simon Management, is planning improvements there. It was in the newspaper. It sure needs it. Will they be just a face lift or will the changes be substantive? I don't know. But I do know that having lived in Orland Park for the past 25 or more years, the place has really changed, and not always for the better.

For example, I find myself going to the mall at 153rd and LaGrange Road far more often than I do the Orland Mall. Has anyone bothered to do a study? Well, save your money. The mall at 153rd and LaGrange (both sides) has a name problem -- I don't know many people who can properly identify its name -- but it has stores that are worth shopping at that are not clothing stores. Let's face it, there was a time at the Orland Park Mall when they had a lot of great stores there, but the hope was some higher end stores would move in. They haven't. Besides Sears, the Orland Mall's three other anchors are JC Penny, the old Marshall Fields (I don't like Macy's much so I won't use the name) and Carson Pirie Scott.

The stores that I used to enjoy shopping at have all left or have changed. Take the GAP for example. Used to be a great place to by clothes but now it's just a hangout for young kids. (Baby boomers still think they are young folks, but I don't have to tell most of you who read this blog, which is baby boomer central.)

The Orland Mall needs more than just a makeover. It needs more substance, a reason to go back there to shop. Lately, I've been driving out to the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. Now there is a mall. It's both an in-door and out-door mall with stores all over, like what Oak Brook Mall used to be. (Oak Brook Mall is on the verge of going the way of the Orland Mall, too. They used to have some great stores there but these days, I don't know).

You know the Orland Mall views its future with kids when you walk in and they promote a special credit card for the younger set. That's not going to get the aged money back to the mall's stores.

The Schaumburg Mall has a lot of great restaurants, and even the stores there that are in the Orland Mall seem to cater to a different kind of customer. Really. I think someone should spend some money and compare the stores at the two malls. They're selling cheaper items in Orland than at Schaumburg. It's either the market that defines itself or people who think they are reading market statistics and data properly that are making the decisions. Orland needs a lot more substance. It needs a few better stores, It needs someone with an eye for perception because Orland's biggest problem is a perception problem. I don't want to run in to the skateboard crowd, young kids who hang out there and seem to be the focus of the marketing of the stores there.

A better mall would target families.

How about getting rid of all of the "circus performer" retailers in those kiosks. Is that not PC? These are the small kiosks that harass you as you walk past. "Hey, you want a new cell phone?" Why? Is the high end f-ing cell phone I now have not better than the piece of garbage you're trying to shove down my throat in your glass display there? (I have to put the "f-ing" in the sentence otherwise they might not understand what I am saying. There's that new young-people speak that includes a lot of cuss words.)

Driving into the mall is a hassle. The entrances are filled with deep potholes. (Come to think of it, Orland Park streets have a lot of potholes, too, but I think that's just a reflection of the bad economy -- though Mayor Dan McLaughlin has said the retail collapse in the village is improving.)

Let's be honest, the nicest thing about having the Mall is that most motorists can drive around the red light cameras at 151st and LaGrange Road. And they are driving a little too fast, by the way but no one grabs them and issues any tickets. I think it's 25 MPH in the outer ring road, but the cars are often flying past at 40 to get to and from work in the morning and the evening. God forbid being in front of one of the dragsters while they are going around the circular road trying to pass you while staying within the lane markers.

Yes, let's face it. The Orland Mall's primary purpose, at least for most motorists, is to avoid the intersections. There is a perception -- there is that word again -- that you can get some place faster driving through the mall than you can by driving on Orland's main roads, which are choked with traffic. And nothing drives the success or failure of anything more than perception. Simon Management might consider that as they move forward.

I like the idea of the islands and trees ... how about doing something with that old Homemaker's property and that old movie theater? That movie theater used to be something. Now, it's just an empty shell where perverts get nabbed by the police -- seen any of the police reports lately? The best way to get to Toys R Us is to drive through the movie parking lot, which has potholes that look like they should be in a scifi film. They're big enough to eat your car, although navigating them becomes a natural thing once you've done it a dozen times.

Perception. Simon Management is going to have to do a little more than just fill a few potholes and plant a few trees.

Get rid of the Circus Atmosphere. Start a campaign advertising the "upgrade" in quality from skateboard class to family class, maybe. Stop catering to the kids. Crack down more on crime. (A double edged sword. The more you report on crime and fight crime, the more it builds the perception that crime exists there).

How about imposing a dress code? Get rid of those fast-dollar circus freak show of kiosks. That's so Ford City and Chicago Ridge Mall. Convince a few of those high end stores where people really spend money to invest in Orland Mall and focus on the adults more than the kids. The kids are a fast steady stream of change. That's what drags a mall down. Always been the problem even when I was a kid.

You have to convince people that it's far better to drive a few minutes to the Orland Mall than the 45 minutes to the Schaumburg Mall. But that's going to take some serious planning, rebuilding the whole issue of "perception."

Perception often becomes reality, whether you like it or not.

You think we have enough cheap jewelry stores there?

It's not enough to have an Apple Store.

-- Ray Hanania

1 comment:

  1. The best part of the OP mall is the Lego store. Once my son outgrows the Legos, I will have no reason to go there at all. Ok, it's pretty cool to have the Pottery Barn and Apple store in there....other than that, there is no draw for me.