Northfield Square Mall

The approximate 53-acre site where the mall sits at North Kinzie Avenue is central to any plans the village has regarding moving forward on village redevelopment plans.

BRADLEY — Substantial changes to the Northfield Square mall property will be the first focus of redevelopment plans along Kinzie Avenue in Bradley as the village moves forward with reshaping its image.

At the second community forum regarding corridor redevelopment on Tuesday, planners emphasized the need to reinvigorate the property — most likely by removing at least a portion of the property and creating an outdoor area — as it remains vital to the any plans the village has at reshaping itself.

About 35 people participated in Tuesday’s planning session.

At the first community forum in October, the mall was the chief concern.

The need to strengthen the area only grows. The village spent $1.1 million to purchase the former Carson’s men’s store in October 2019 as a way of helping to maintain the property.

In addition to the mall area, planners at Tuesday’s meeting also stated pedestrian traffic needs to be brought to both north and south Kinzie Avenue.

The third part of the planning process is how to reinvigorate the West Broadway Street district.

The planners dispelled the belief that Kinzie, although a state highway, cannot be involved with pedestrian traffic to its east or west. The planners noted the addition of sidewalks and tree or scrub plantings could make the area walkable and encourage more small-type shops and restaurants with outdoor seating.

“It’s not true that Kinzie is too busy to be pedestrian friendly,” said Ginkgo Planning and Design consultant Perry Georgopoulos. He noted much busier roads in the suburbs have been transformed and where there was once little to no foot traffic, there is now considerable appeal to pedestrians.

“Redevelopment of the mall is top priority,” said planner Lance Dorn, of SB Friedman, the second firm involved in this process. “A major investment at the mall is critical to driving people to the area.”

He said any further decay at the site must be halted.

Final recommendations from the design firms of Ginkgo and SB Friedman will be presented to village administration in March or April. Implementing the concepts will be much more challenging as these upgrades will likely be costly.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Watson said near the conclusion of the meeting that the village could use hotel-motel tax revenues to help fund changes. Currently, however, these funds go the Kankakee County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Watson and the village board are attempting to exit a five-year agreement with the organization. Watson said the village could use nearly $500,000 of annual hotel tax money to help kick-start these improvements.

Regarding the mall property, Dorn acknowledged major changes will need to come to Northfield.

He said retail can remain at the site, but also open-air space, more dining options and perhaps multi-family housing could also be a part of redevelopment.

Regarding Broadway, the initial concept appears to focus on returning the area to a “traditional Main Street” appeal, meaning a mix of small business, retail and government locations, while creating a cohesive look.

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.