By Bob Uphues
The holiday shopping season is just starting, but over at Sears in the North Riverside Park Mall, 7501 Cermak Road, they're already holding "blowout" sales, some ground-floor display units are empty and racks of merchandise stand sequestered in curtained-off holding pens.
The great downsizing has begun. The department store, which leases space from Seritage Growth Properties, must have its merchandise out of the lower level by Dec. 21 in order to pave the way for a family amusement complex called Round One.
Sears will consolidate its entire store into the roughly 90,000-square-foot upper floor of the mall anchor building. In order to accommodate all of the merchandise, construction has already begun on the second floor, converting a large storage area in the northwest section of the upper level into retail space.
Construction to expand showroom space elsewhere on the upper floor and to create room for Sears Optical and a photo studio is also under way.
Once Sears has vacated the ground floor in late December, demolition will start in preparation for the Round One build-out. The amusement complex, which will feature bowling, billiards, arcade games, ping pong, karaoke is expected to open in the fall of 2018.
Round One will occupy 45,000 square feet of the lower level, essentially taking up the southern half of the space. The business' main exterior entrance will be on the west side of the mall, an entry way made highly visible not just by a wall sign but by a giant 17-foot tall bowling pin outside the main door.
Mall visitors will also be able to gain entry to Round One through the existing ground-floor exit/entry that connects the anchor building with the mall itself.
Demolition calls for the removal of the escalators in the middle of the Sears space and the elevator on the south end of the store, making the upper and lower floors completely separate.
Workers will wall off the escalator area upstairs while demolition is taking place. Sears is expected to continue operating on the upper level during construction.
The north half of the lower level, which faces Cermak Road, may be divided into two or three separate retail spaces. Those businesses will only be able to be accessed from the outside. There will be no interior mall entrances/exits for those stores.
No tenants have been lined up yet for the north half of the lower-level. The north and south halves of the lower-level anchor building will be separated by a corridor running east and west, according to plans filed with the village of North Riverside.
Plans also call for improvements to the upper-floor loading dock at the northwest corner of the anchor building. Improvements will necessitate the removal of three trees. The loading dock will be shared by Sears and lower-level tenants, according to the plans.