Jon Revelle's Commentary

Posted February 13, 2008 (user submitted)

Opening in 1965, Belvidere Mall was Lake County, Illinois' first enclosed shopping mall, and was also one of the Chicago area's first malls. It was named after the street it was built on, Belvidere Road (better known as Rt. 120). Belvidere's only anchor tenant was a Montgomery Ward (now Home Depot). The mall later featured a one-screen movie cinema.

Belvidere thrived for 6 years until the opening of the colossal Lakehurst Mall about five minutes away. The small Belvidere Mall was immediately obsolete compared to the 1.1 million sq. ft. Lakehurst complex, which featured three anchors and two levels.

In an attempt to catch up to the popularity of Lakehurst, Belvidere went through an extensive renovation in 1985. The popularity of Lakehurst resulted in the departure of Montgomery Ward from Belvidere in 1987, which relocated to the former Wieboldt's anchor at Lakehurst, occupying the top floor. This left Belvidere without an anchor, and the people of Waukegan pondered the future of the now dying mall.

Belvidere remained without an anchor store for almost 10 years, until the former Wards building was expanded and re-opened as Builder's Square, a home improvement warehouse similar to today's Lowe's and Home Depot which had relocated from its smaller location down 120. Builder's Square closed in 1999 after the chain filed for bankruptcy, and was replaced by Home Depot, which was building several new stores during that period. Home Depot closed its mall entrance and has operated that way ever since.

In 1998, Belvidere was remodeled again, and received an new grand entrance. The mall's owners (Imperial Realty) renamed the mall to "Belvidere Discount Mall". It was then when Belvidere decided to go in a different direction from other area malls, and offer more "mom-and-pop" discount shops instead of major stores such as Foot Locker, KB Toys, and American Eagle. Today, all of Belvidere's tenants are Hispanic-oriented, with the exception of a video arcade. The mall includes a strip-mall on the outside, with the actual mall inside. Although the mall has bounced back from almost dying in the 1980s, it is still a shell of its former self, and is one of the more forgotten malls of Lake County.

The Belvidere Cinema closed permanently in 2004 or 2005. Its operators also operated the movie cinema at Lakehurst, which closed and was demolished in 2007.

Ironically, Lakehurst mall, the mall that threatened the existence of Belvidere in the 70s and 80s, saw a major decline in the 1990s. It closed in 2001 and was demolished in 2004.

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