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Feature Story - February 2004
New Life for Brickyard Mall
Urban Retailing Tenets Guide Redevelopment

by Craig Barner

For a quarter century, the Brickyard Mall symbolized the no-nonsense traits of mall merchandising in a middle-class neighborhood on Chicago's Northwest Side.

Anchor tenants were in the midline to discount range: J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward and Kmart stores and a Jewel-Osco supermarket. Countless specialty retailers were available in enclosed buildings with temperature-controlled environments. And, a sea of concrete ensured a parking space for practically everyone.

But the 49-acre site at Diversey and Narragansett streets was in need of a revamp when all the anchors but Jewel-Osco closed shop, said Michelle Panovich, principal for Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based Mid-America Asset Management Inc., the developer.

"Enclosed malls are not doing particularly well," she said. "Today's lifestyle requires people to get in and out of the stores they want to go to, so a new layout really makes the difference."


Reflecting Urban Flavor

Key design ideas influenced partly by city guidelines on urban retailing are steering construction on the $110 million project. The principles aim at ensuring the mall's suitability to its location and its feasibility after reopening in October as The Brickyard.

For instance, some of the 11 new structures, especially those with multiple tenants, will be located near Narragansett and Diversey.

"They're friendly buildings from the street, instead of being in a suburban-type of layout in which the buildings are pushed to the back of the site and all the parking is right up to the street," Panovich added.

Masonry and cast stone will dress all sides of the new buildings for a solid look that reflects the neighborhood. Storefront windows and doors will be on multiple facades.

Only surface parking will be available. Gone will be the deck parking atop the existing Jewel-Osco and the parking spaces near streets that required a hike to reach the stores.

Large-format structures will be used for the new anchors in the open-air, "power center" format. There will be a 143,700-sq.-ft. Lowe's home-improvement store, a 143,100-sq.-ft. Target department store, a replacement 64,565-sq.-ft. Jewel-Osco and a 30,000-sq.-ft. Marshalls home fashions outlet.

"It's one-stop shopping," Panovich said. She added that the new anchors are "going to be the best draw, and they're going to bring the most consistent shopper to the location."

55 Stores Coming

About 55 stores are expected to open, and there will also be restaurants and 2,300 parking spaces.

The first stores will open in March and others will follow from time to time until project completion, Panovich said. Some spaces in buildings have already been turned over to vendors so fixtures can be installed.

The total mall area, about 600,000 sq. ft., represents a decrease of about 280,000 sq. ft. from the previous shopping center, but the shrinkage is mostly attributable to the elimination of the deck parking.

The mall will retain its two tiers, with units on both the upper and lower levels, and a retaining wall between them. Roads will connect the levels, which differ in elevation by about 30 ft.

(The multiple heights are explained by a landfill that had once occupied the site, said John Zoerner, senior project manager for Mid-America. The landfill was used to plug a pit from still earlier that had produced clay for bricks.)

The existing Jewel-Osco has stayed open during the project until the replacement store is completed. Utility switchovers allowed the supermarket to remain open.

Some of the same team members had the same experience on a different project, the Ford City Mall on Chicago's South Side.

"On Ford City, we had to keep it running with tenants [during a project], so I knew they understood how to make that occur," Panovich said.

Site Issues

The utility lines that fed the previous buildings were dated.

The systems were removed or crushed to make way for the new lines, said Sandra Reinert, project vice president with Chicago-based Pepper Construction, the general contractor.

No dirt could be removed from the site during the excavation phase principally because of the landfill. Taking away the soil and having it go through remediation would have been expensive.

Moved dirt was put in piles and sorted, and large debris, such as concrete chunks, could be taken away, Reinert said.

About 500,000 cu. yds. of earth was moved, said Paul Bates, project manager with Rosemont, Ill.-based Spaceco Inc., the civil engineer.

Deep foundations, like caissons, might have resulted in too many spoils leaving the site, Mid-America's Zoerner said. In addition, the infill material that had been placed on the site previous to the construction of the original mall might have lacked the firmness to handle typical buildings.

Dynamic compaction was the solution. Compressing the soil ensures that material remains on the site and the buildings have enough support.

A crane was brought in, and the machine dropped a steel weight to pack the soil densely under buildings and retaining walls. Standard footings were used. The site had also been compacted when the original mall was built.

"There were no settlement cracks on it," Reinert said. "So it did support those buildings."

Phasing the Project

The demolition and utility switchovers were phased so that the existing Jewel-Osco could stay open.

A surface tunnel, which connected Narragansett and Diversey for deliveries, was demolished in multiple phases. Previously, trucks came in one end and exited the other, but after the tunnel was partly demolished, trucks entered and turned around inside to exit.

The Kmart near Narragansett was knocked down early, but the fire-pump room nearby was kept because it maintained the sprinkler system. A new pump room was built to serve the existing Jewel-Osco adjacent to Diversey, allowing the old pump room to later be pulled down.

The new supermarket is expected to open in March so the existing one can be razed, the last scrap of the old Brickyard Mall.


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