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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

Southridge: rebuffed and renewed but not without some growing pains

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The sleeping giant in the southwest suburbs is wide awake thanks to the multi-million dollar alarm it's owners sounded.

Simon Properties infused cash, rubbed off the rust, lured at least one new anchor store and signed a bunch of other shops in an effort to end the decade-long snooze the state's largest mall had been in.  

A bright, white Macy's holds down the southern end of the complex at 76th and Grange.  Old Navy is coming, and a walk along both levels of the mall shows all manner of new shops.  

And, a few that aren't where they used to be.

That includes a sporting goods store that I would frequent on occasion, and one that I had a helluva time trying to find Saturday morning.  Turns out I'd walked right past it on my way in.   Sure, the store is still there, but it's in a much smaller venue.

Come to find out the resurgence of Southridge is not without its growing pains.   A Business Journal story this month details what's happening to tenants who have shorter, cheaper leases--in a word, Simon can move them or flat out give 'em the thumb if a better offer comes along.

No one said it was an easy business.

Simon doesn't appear to be doing anything illegal.   I'm sure the lease template details all of the options and that tenants have to know going in that they're losing security in return for a lower month rent payment.    It just seems kind of harsh, especially when it comes to some of these stores who stayed with Southridge during the lean times.   Location is everything, and it has to be tough for an owner who spent years in one spot to have to go back and re-educate loyal customers.

Then there is the siren song of the national chains who seem to be coming back to Southridge big time.   That's great: they're big because they obviously do something right and customers like them,   But the smaller shops have a fan base, too, and are destinations onto themselves.   It would seem a happy blend of the big guys and the locals would be best for all involved--Simon, the stores and the shoppers.

It's great seeing what is happening at Southridge.  As its competitors underwent lavish renovations (Bayshore and Mayfair) or continued tweaking and tuning up (Brookfield Square), the Greendale mall languished under somnambulant owners who seemed interested only in collecting rent checks and not in re-inventing their holdings.   Good stores left and the mall looked, well, tired.  

Simon changed that.   The renovations look great and Southridge has energy.   The afterglow extends to the outlots where long-vacant buildings are coming down and new attractions are popping up.

This customer loves the changes, but hopes they aren't coming at the cost of loyal local owners who stuck around in the lean times.    There should be enough room at the mall for all.

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