Believe it or not, 2007 marked the 30th anniversary of the opening of White Oaks Mall. Today, it may be hard to imagine Springfield without Westside shopping, traffic, and congestion – but thirty years ago, the area surrounding the 80 acre site at Wabash and what was then called the West Bypass was mainly empty land and a relatively new Colony West subdivision.
Here’s the announcement from the 1/14/1971 State Journal-Register. Notice that the original name planned for the mall was “Westroads”.
New Shopping Center To Feature Covered Mall
Westroads Mall, a new shopping center that will feature a mall area covered, heated and air-conditioned with internal landscape, sidewalk cafes and courts for community activities, exhibits and art fairs, is being planned for Springfield. Construction will begin this year.
Westroads Mall will be located at the northeast corner of US 36 and the future west four-lane by-pass that will link the South Bypass due to be completed in 1971 and the future North Bypass.
The shopping center area is part of the Colony West Master Development Plan and was zoned several years ago for shopping, offices, and high-rise apartments. All necessary utilities have been extended by the developer to the acreage which lies immediately west of the Colony West subdivision.
Westroads Mall, which will have over 600,000 square feet of enclosed mall retail space, is scheduled to have three local department stores, Myers Brothers, Bressmers, and Montgomery Ward. Discussions are under way with other national chain stores.
Upon completion, the center will have at least three and possibly four major department stores in addition to over 50 other retail and service establishments. Parking for 4,000 cars is planned.
Here is an excerpt from the 6/19/1973 SJ-R article by Mike Clark that announced that the project would finally be getting started.
Mall Construction To Begin This Fall
Fall construction of the Westroads Mall, the largest enclosed regional shopping center in downstate Illinois was announced Monday.
The mall will have one million square feet of floor space. It will be located at the northeast corner of US 36 and the proposed west bypass.
The mall, which will be opened in August of 1975, has been the subject of discussion since the first announcement was made in early 1971. Monday’s announcement marked the third one, but there appeared little doubt of the project’s completion from the participating business executives.
In a news conference held at the Sangamo Club Monday officials announced that these stores will have major units at the mall: Montgomery Ward of Chicago; Famous-Barr of St. Louis, Mo.; and Myers Brothers of Springfield.
Negotiations are being concluded with a fourth major store, but an announcement could not be made. However, Sears-Roebuck is believed to be the fourth major occupant of the mall. Announcement of the fourth major store is expected in 30 days.
The large scope of the project raised questions that Springfield can support such a mall without hurting downtown sales. But executives said that Westroads Mall is the only enclosed shopping center within 70 miles. Peoria has a mall.
Work finally got started sometime in 1975…
Completion date of fall 1976 set for first phase of White Oaks Mall
by Toby McDaniel
State Journal-Register, 5/1/1975
The first phase of White Oaks Mall, a 120-store regional shopping center under construction on Springfield’s southwest side, will be completed in the fall of 1976, according to an announcement Wednesday.
Addition of a fifth department store, Bressmer’s to the shopping center also was announced by representatives of Melvin Simon & Associates.
Two or three of the department stores are scheduled to open upon completion of the first phase, developer Herbert Simon said. The full project is expected to be complete in early 1977.
Other department stores in the center on an 80-acre site at Wabash Avenue and West Bypass will be Myers Brothers, Sears, Montgomery Ward and Famous-Barr.
Simon refused to reveal the estimated cost of the development. A building permit for $8 million was issued late last year. Site preparation began shortly after and Simon said some building materials are being delivered to the site.
The totally enclosed mall will encompass more than one million square feet of floor space. Sears will have the largest store, about 186,000 square feet on two floors. Myers Brothers’ plans call for 100,000 square feet and Bressmer’s 60,000 square feet.
Simon said his comany, headquartered in Indianapolis, became the principal owner and developer of White Oaks last month. Paul Barker, president of Park Realty Co. of Springfield and the Arthur Rubloff Co. of Chicago will continue to play a role in development of the shopping center, he said. The Rubloff firm will assist in the local and regional leasing programs.
The Simon firm rates as the fourth largest shopping center developer in the nation. It has built more than 90 centers in 22 states and has 14 others under development.
Businesses that were opened in March of 1977
The Carousel, Osco Drug, National Shirt Shop, Jean Nicole, Circus World Toy Store, Gallery Sea Food, Star of India, The Cookie Factory, Hickory Farms, Flowerama, Lowery Organ, Shaver’s World, Kinney Shoes, Brooks Fashion, Jo Ann Fabrics, Printer’s Ink Bookstore, Keepsake Photos, Aladdin’s Castle, Spencer Gifts, Lober’s, Swiss Pretzel Shop, Florsheim Shoes, Buster Brown Shoes, Mermod Jaccard & King, Topps & Trousers, Gordon Jewelers, Endicott Shoes, Winston’s, Susie Casuals, Petrie, Foxmoor, Walden Books, Nobil Shoes, Wag’s Restaurant, Byerly Music, So-Fro Fabric, Casual Corner, Kirlin’s Candies, Murray Shoes, J. Riggins, Claires, Helzberg Jewelers, GNC, Musicland, Orange Julius, Life Stride, Bressler’s Ice Cream, Air Step, Silverman’s, Motherhood, The Ranch, Service Optical, Tanneberg & Sandorwitz Deli, Merry Go Round, Zales, Tinderbox Tobacco, Hanover Shoes, Bottom Half, Gingiss Formalwear, Oriental Gifts, Herndon’s, Maling Shoes, Paul Harris, County Seat, Just Pants, MCL Cafeteria, IPCO Optical, Roberts Brothers, The Hub, Illini Sporting Goods, Baker Shoes, Union Jack, The Children’s Shop
AND the 4 anchor stores – Famous Barr, Myers Brothers (now Bergner’s), Sears, and Montgomery Ward (now Dick’s).
And a few that opened between March and August…
McDonald’s, Hotdog on a Stick, The Book Market, White Oaks Cinema, Luca Pizza
Archive photos courtesy of The Sangamon Valley Collection at Lincoln Library and White Oaks Mall.