Two substantial mall repositioning projects in the Chicago area are near completion. Centennial, the Dallas-based real estate investment firm that owns the properties, tapped Stantec—a global architecture, engineering and design firm—to redevelop Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills, Illinois, and Fox Valley Mall in Aurora, Illinois. Each property’s dated center court space will be converted into a vibrant, multi-use “central park” environment.
Collaborating across five offices, Stantec is providing visioning, conceptual design, schematic design, placemaking, site furnishings, finishes, graphic design, structural engineering, lighting design, design development, construction documentation and construction administration for each project. At the core of each project is a desire to reposition each center’s dated center court space as vibrant, multi-use, park-like gathering spaces that appeal to visitors of all ages. Stantec’s Boulder, Colorado; Phoenix; Chicago; Minneapolis and Raleigh, North Carolina, offices contributed to the project.
“Three attributes of a successful place are beauty, meaning and connection,” said CarloMaria Ciampoli, Stantec senior designer on the projects based in Boulder. “Beauty is the aspirational side of a place; great places make us feel better. Unique places have a meaning that goes beyond the physical side; they become part of our personal story, like a friend or a memory. Connection is all about the innate human instinct to belong and feel part of a community.
The 15,190-square-foot design for Hawthorn Mall will deliver a sophisticated park-like experience that combines a coffee shop/wine bar with a lush landscape accessorized by engaging lawn games, an interactive water feature and attractive, comfortable soft seating. Two tree-like sculptures will deliver an artistic feel that connects the upper and lower levels of the mall, while two contemporary lounges just above the north and south edges of the park will create an extension of the park on the second level. The existing ceiling will be replaced with a more modern lamella-style ceiling and new avant-garde lighting features.
At Fox Valley Mall, the 15,925-square-foot center court space will be divided into the brand-new lower-level, park-like adaptation as well as two platforms on the second level that will simultaneously create social gathering spaces on the upper level and pocket park spaces below. Each lower-level pocket park will feature its own night sky- or nature-inspired ceiling. Coordinating elements that will make the design feel park-like include string lighting and trellis features, shrouding columns and bulkheads with decorative wooden blocks and plants and the addition of fox sculptures to the water fountain and other areas throughout the design.
“Together with Stantec, Centennial has turned a previously underutilized center court space into a brand-new kind of anchor for both Hawthorn Mall and Fox Valley Mall that will not only increase traffic, but will change the way people interact with these shopping centers and the way they experience a trip to the mall,” said Whitney Livingston, COO for Centennial. “The center court space in these shopping centers was once just a space people walked though. Today, it’s a destination—a place people plan to go to spend time with one another, particularly when the weather outside is less than inviting. We’ve done something groundbreaking and new here, and it’s gratifying to see the way these communities are embracing and enjoying what we have created.”