You can set your watch to comments on social media that inevitably, and swiftly, appear whenever the Landmark publishes a story about the North Riverside Park Mall. 

Close it down. Never go there. Waste of space.

Often there’s more than a tinge of out-and-out racism involved, given that the mall and many of its stores attract visitors of color to the shopping center. The responses are altogether depressing, if predictable, and also incredibly short-sighted, especially when they come from residents of North Riverside itself.

In recent weeks there’s been a bit of news out of the mall, both regarding some pretty important incoming tenants filling valuable spaces. First off, Forman Mills is set to occupy about 90,000 square feet of retail space on the upper floor of the north anchor, where Sears used to be located.

In today’s paper, we’ve got a story that essentially says Aldi is an absolute lock to build a new 20,000-square-foot store in the north parking lot of the old Sears property. It’ll replace the small, unappealing Aldi in the strip mall at 2000 Harlem Ave.

Both businesses would be considered “discount” retailers, we suppose. But both will also keep North Riverside’s economic engine humming and will result in more sales tax revenue, which is absolutely critical for paying North Riverside’s bills and keeping local property taxes as low as they are.

North Riverside Park Mall is the village’s financial powerhouse and local residents should disparage it at their own financial peril. Village government, including the police department, has long worked hand-in-hand with mall management to address safety concerns and sporadic violence that sometimes has erupted.

The causes of those problems, however, have deep roots that are no fault of the shopping center itself, just as they are not the fault of other businesses in the Harlem-Cermak area. As the largest single commercial attraction, what happens at the mall gets most of the attention. We believe mall management and the village have responded directly, frankly and aggressively to incidents of the past two-plus years. Since the summer of 2020, those incidents have been few.

For the sake of North Riverside, our hope is that the mall continues to thrive as a sales tax generator and economic engine attracting other businesses to the Harlem-Cermak area.

So, welcome to Forman Mills, Aldi and their customers. Your money is good here.

Dividing the spoils

When the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation to allow widespread video gambling in bars and restaurants in the state, it really restricted non-home rule municipalities – small towns like Brookfield, Riverside and North Riverside – from setting fees for machine licenses.

At $25 a pop for an annual license, it was a bargain for establishment owners and game operators, and they’ve reaped the benefits while the 5-percent cut municipalities get from a tax imposed on net income has been less impactful.

In addition to the new $250 fee limit on machine licenses, we wouldn’t be averse to legislators increasing the cut municipalities get. That’ll, of course, have to come out of another pocket, but it seems as if there’s plenty of money going around.