It's been a rough couple of weeks for North Riverside Park Mall. On Dec. 29, hundreds of kids descended on the mall, causing so much of a ruckus that officials had to shut it down early for the night.
Then on Jan. 2, shoppers were greeted at the doors to the mall by police – and there were dozens more camped out in a funeral home parking lot a half mile away – who sought to prevent a second flash mob incident, which had been announced on social media.
To top it off, on Jan. 8 all signs began to point toward the liquidation of Sears, a longtime mall anchor tenant and Chicago retailing icon.
Perhaps more troubling, though, was the predictable, knee-jerk responses to the Dec. 29 incident, many of which seemed to take delight in it by casually dog-whistling about those who participated and calling for the mall to be shut down because it was such a problem.
Funny thing, we didn't see many calls for Water Tower Place in Chicago to rid itself of the populace after a very similar incident on Dec. 29 just an hour or so after the North Riverside incident.
North Riverside Park Mall, with its excellent access via public transportation – that's a good thing -- is not the only shopping center that has seen incidents like this in recent years. The problem isn't the shopping center, which has taken active steps to help cut down on such incidents.
The truth is, for all of the retail industry's troubles and shaky future and for the unfortunate incidents which seem to coincide with week between Christmas and New Year's, that mall and its success is absolutely critical to the village of North Riverside.
Any North Riverside residents wishing that mall ill ought to have their heads examined, because that's what has allowed the village to levy microscopically low property taxes and for years helped pay residents' water bills, waste collection fees and vehicle stickers.
And residents of Riverside and Brookfield ought to hope the mall stays a local economic powerhouse, because the mall's property taxes go a long way toward funding schools in Riverside District 96 and Riverside-Brookfield High School.
North Riverside Park Mall, like all of its brothers and sisters scattered throughout the country, is in transition. Malls 20 years from now likely will look very little like they did when they started opening in the 1970s and 1980s.
They will be geared toward restaurants and entertainment. We're already seeing that at North Riverside Mall with the renewed success of Classic Cinemas, which still hopes to expand its footprint, and with the recent opening of Round One.
It's easy to cast aspersions on social media – it's probably what social media is best suited for – but for more than 40 years North Riverside Park Mall has been a cash register for our communities.
Let's hope for 40 more.