Change on the way

Opinion: Editorials

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The Landmark View

If you're one of North Riverside's legacy retailers it's been a rough go of late. J.C. Penney, Jewel-Osco and Sears – all of whom heard the siren song of the village's commercial property tax rates and business-friendly demeanor and escaped from a then-deteriorating Cermak Plaza in Berwyn – are either on their way out of town or in serious danger of folding.

That's disappointing news, certainly, but as the Cermak Plaza itself has illustrated in recent years, sometimes you need to reinvent yourself. What was once a tired, unappealing strip of shops has gained new life and the Cermak Plaza is once again a destination – just try navigating the parking lot.

Now it's the North Riverside shopping centers, developed in the 1960s and 1970s in the Harlem-Cermak area that are showing their age and obsolescence.

Those shopping centers are now in something of a transitional period and face a new reality of a weakening retail sector facing extra pressure from a pandemic that is driving even more customers to shop online.

The shopping center of old is on its way out, and the village of North Riverside and other towns that depend on sales, amusement and food-and-beverage taxes is in the midst of some serious self-examination.

The good news is that the Harlem-Cermak corridor is going to remain a hub of activity and traffic, bringing in people from all over. That remains attractive to retailers like Binny's and Hobby Lobby and to amusement centers like Urban Air and Round One, which quickly filled important commercial vacancies as weaker traditional retailers exited.

North Riverside officials are in the midst of a major overhaul of its zoning code and land use plan as part of a strategic planning process that began last year. It'll take some months yet for that process to be completed – and the pandemic isn't helping in that respect – but it's crucial work for a town that has to reinvent itself as a destination in a post-big box retail world.

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Reader Comments

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Ben Venuti  

Posted: July 1st, 2020 2:35 PM

Cermak Plaza certainly has made a rebound, though some folks avoid it due to the nightmare of a parking lot. There has to be a way to reconfigure the traffic flow. Re: North Riverside Park Mall, the crime, shootings and looting have to be addressed. People don't want to shop where they don't feel safe.

Fred Mertz  

Posted: June 30th, 2020 5:02 PM

Well it's obvious that upscale shoppers avoid that whole area like the plague (or pandemic), and will continue to do so. Binny's helped put a nail in Jewels coffin, as well as the few liquor sellers nearby. Costco is polishing off several businesses, from gas stations to smaller food stores and bakeries. There is a retail saturation point that has been reached in that area, it's time for something new.

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