Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Park Forest Centre
Park Forest Centre

Park Forest Centre

A shopping mall opened in 1949 south of Chicago in the visionary new planned suburb of Park Forest. The mall was one of the nation's first retail environments characterized by a group of small stores “anchored” by several large department stores and surrounded by acres of parking. Within a generation, these malls would emerge across the United States as powerful competitors to downtown shopping districts.

Traditional suburban downtowns lacked the parking facilities appropriate to the emerging automobile culture. Envisioning a shopping center that would function as both town hub and commercial facility, developers Philip Klutznick and Nathan Manilow placed Park Forest Plaza (later Centre) in the center of a new town. The mall was intended to serve Park Forest and surrounding communities, countering the insularity of the suburb by drawing in outsiders. Consumers, primarily women, would create a sense of community through shopping. Architect Richard Bennett designed the plaza for women, offering them a sense of adventure as they shopped in a center that was modeled on Venice and included a clock tower.

The Park Forest developers and design team went on to build some of the largest and most successful shopping centers in the Chicago area. Despite initial success and rapid expansion, however, the Park Forest Centre could not compete with newer regional malls built in the 1970s with easy expressway access.