EVERGREEN PARK, Ill. (CBS) — It was a pioneer, creating a new way of shopping, just southwest of Chicago. CBS 2’s Jim Williams was there for the bittersweet beginning of a new era for once popular mall.
After 63 years, Evergreen Plaza is meeting the wrecking ball.
“It was one-of-a-kind,” says Evergreen Park mayor James Sexton. The Plaza, they called it, was the first of the big, enclosed suburban shopping malls with more than 100 stores in its heyday.
“It was the greatest place to meet your friends, to do your Christmas shopping,” said Kathleen Fassl.
But today, Evergreen Plaza is just about empty. Enclosed malls everywhere are going away because we’re shopping differently these days.
“Why should I leave my home if I can if I go online and get what I want,” said Evan Moore.
Evergreen Plaza will be rebuilt for a new age as an open air mall, possibly with stores like Whole Foods and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Carson’s on the south end stays and will be completely renovated.
Evergreen Plaza has a sensitive recent history. The mall went from having an integrated clientele to one almost exclusively black. The developer believes the new mall will be attractive to everyone.
“I think that because of the retailers were going to have here, that’s really going to pull from all the local neighborhoods,” said Jay Adams.
The hope is to recapture some of what made Evergreen Plaza one of the most popular destinations southwest of downtown.
“Evergreen Plaza was the place to be in Chicago, I tell you,” said Eddie Mayfield.
The new Evergreen Plaza will be considerably smaller than the old mall. 30 to 40 stores expected when the work is finished within the next couple of years.