HILLCREST SHOPPING CENTER: JOLIET, IL
Brandon Gorte's Commentary
Posted September 3, 2006 (user submitted April 2, 2006)
Hillcrest is a currently a typical strip center anchored by a grocery store in
Crest Hill, Illinois. However, if you look a little deeper under the surface,
you'll see that it has a much older and longer history.
In 1959, a new mall was being built along Larkin Avenue between Theodore Street
and Plainfield Road (US-30) just north of Joliet. It was to be the first mall
in Will County. The mall was to be an outdoor mall (en vogue at the time) and
anchored by an 88,000SF Goldblatt's at the south end, and a two-level 50,000SF
branch of a local department store, the Boston Store (no relation to the
current one based in Milwaukee). The Boston Store was expanding to two
branches, one in downtown at Jefferson & Ottawa, and one in Hillcrest.
Goldblatt's was moving out of downtown to the mall. The mall would consist of
five buildings. One at the back between Goldblatt's and the Boston Store, two
in the front, one for the Boston Store, and one for Goldblatt's and other
smaller shops around the store. All together, the mall was to have 250,000SF
of retail space and cost $4.8 million.
On November 18, 1959, the mall was officially opened to the public.
Governor William G. Stratton was there for the ribbon cutting at 10am for the new Boston
Store. Goldblatt's opened early, on September 14, 1959 as the first store in
the mall. The mall also included Jewel, Walgreen's, Richman Bros., SS Kresge,
and about 30 other stores for 37 stores total. The mall was originally
supposed to be part of Joliet, but at the same time the City of Crest Hill was
being organized. Hillcrest became part of Crest Hill in the early 1960s when
the city was incorporated (City Hall is only 1 block east).
Hillcrest proved popular through the 1960s and early 1970s until another mall
was built in Joliet, along Jefferson Street -- Jefferson Square Mall (see the
other entry for this dead mall). A two screen movie theater was opened in the
mid-60s. The Boston Store closed its downtown branch in 1972, followed by
Hillcrest in 1976-77. This became a Service Merchandise. Jewel left in the
mid-1960s for a larger combo store (with an Osco Drug) across Theodore Street.
However, the mall continued on.
In 1978, Louis Joliet Mall was built out at I-55 and US-30 (Plainfield Road).
It was only as matter of time before something had to give at Hillcrest. In
1979, it was announced that the shopping center would be de-malled and turned
into a strip center. The two buildings between Larkin and the main mall
corridor would be torn down for more parking. A walk through between Service
Merchandise and Walgreen's was filled in for more store space. This was the
end of the mall, but not the end of Hillcrest.
In 1982, Goldblatt's closed, and the exterior shops around the building
reorganized for a new Venture to open in 1984. At this time a row of shops was
opened between Service Merchandise and Plainfield Road. The theaters closed in
the mid-90s and converted into shops. Service Merchandise moved out of
Hillcrest in 1986 to North Ridge Plaza (kitty-corner across Thoedore & Larkin).
The space then became a Highland Electronics for a few years. A Discovery
Zone then followed and vanished. Currently the Boston Store building is
subdivided between 4-5 successful shops. Venture closed in 1998 to be replaced
with Ames in 2000. Ames became Goldblatt's (again) in 2002. Goldblatt's
return was not triumphant. They closed within six months. In 2005, the
building was reorganized, eliminating the shops in the front (facing Larkin),
and a grocer opened in the building. Currently, the store is a Food 4 Less
(owned by Kroger). Let's hope it stays that way for a while. Anyway,
Hillcrest could have been a truely dead mall, but a quick decision when Louis
Joliet Mall opened may have saved the day (it's fully leased). Hillcrest also
managed to outlive the other mall in town, Jefferson Square.