THE DEVELOPER OF WOODFIELD MALL

Of all the postings on this local history blog, it is Woodfield Mall that has generated the most comments.  It is a shopping center that was ahead of its time and, certainly, of its place.  And it is obviously much loved by those who grew up or lived in Schaumburg Township.  Woodfield

It is sad to report, therefore, that Alfred Taubman, president of the Taubman Company that drove the actual development of the building, died on Friday, April 17, 2015 at his home in Bloomfield Hills, MI.

From all accounts, Mr. Taubman was very engaged in the development of his company’s malls.  After serving in World War II, he returned to his home state and the University of Michigan to study architecture, and later transferred to Lawrence Institute of Technology.  Leaving that institution, he went to work as a draftsman for noted Detroit architect, Charles N. Agree.  In 1950 he started a real estate development firm that began specializing in the building of strip malls and, later, enclosed malls.  [“A. Alfred Taubman’s Life Through The Years.” Detroit Free PressApril 18, 2015.]

It was his architecture background that influenced the malls he built.  According to an article from the April 18, 2015 edition of Women’s Wear Daily, he “pioneered regional, upscale centers with skylights, terrazzo floors, brass railings, landscaping and split-level parking as well as food courts and movie theaters.”  Sound familiar?

The article also says, “He could be daring.  In 1971, Taubman, anticipating the great growth that would come to the northwest suburbs of Chicago, opened the mega two-million-square-foot Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Ill., which at the time had a population of only 18,000.” He was clearly progressive and bold, seeing that people were ready for one-stop shopping.  It was also apparent to him that shoppers were eager to make purchases in their own backyard instead of making a trip to a downtown location that required planning and much walking outside.

Woodfield Mall began its own journey in the early 1960s as Schaumburg Mayor Robert Atcher, the Village Board and Zoning Board began designating the area near the Northwest Tollway and Route 53 as a locale for commercial development.  The Homart Division of Sears Roebuck gradually became interested in the property and the village encouraged that interest by annexing the land in 1964.  Taubman Company became part of the mix when they entered a joint venture in 1967 with Sears’ Homart, calling themselves Woodfield Associates.  Construction began in 1969 and on September 9, 1971, the multi-level, largest-of-its-kind mall opened.  It continued to hold that distinction of biggest mall in America for a number of years to come.

Mr. Taubman, himself, was engaged in many ventures and was quite a diverse investor.  He was the lead owner of the former USFL Michigan Panthers football team.  He also bought the Woodward & Lathrop and Wanamaker’s Department Stores.  In 1982 he bought the A&W Restaurants chain and, a year later, Sotheby’s auction house.  His philanthropic generosity was sizable and included, but is not limited to:  Brown University, Harvard University and the schools he attended–Lawrence Institute and the University of Michigan where he still holds the distinction of being their largest donor in history.

We are fortunate that Mr. Taubman was part of the vision that is Woodfield Mall today.  In September 2015 it will be 44 years since the debut of a shopping center that was, at the time, largely surrounded by farm land and a few connecting roads.  Today it is a hub in the northwest suburbs, if not all of Chicagoland.  It is quite a long-standing testament to such a unique individual.  Thank you Mr. Taubman.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

An undated article entitled “1971:  Dream, Plan Take Shape in Concrete”  by Drew Davis from the Schaumburg Voice assisted me in the writing of the paragraph on the history of Woodfield Mall.

 

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5 Responses to “THE DEVELOPER OF WOODFIELD MALL”

  1. debbymiller@comcast.net Says:

    Jane – your column is exceptional. You should share it with Mr. Taubman’s family…debby

    • jrozek Says:

      Thank you Debby. I appreciate the comment. Mr. Taubman was quite a unique individual!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian

  2. joe Says:

    interesting to read the famous people who came to the mall. Didnt Nixon come to Schaumburg airport in the 70s ? I seem to remember our grade school class meeting him at the airport.

    • jrozek Says:

      Hello Joe,

      You are correct. Richard Nixon flew to Roselle Field (as it was called at that time) on February 7, 1970 to dedicate a water treatment plant in Hanover Park. Thank you for the comment!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian

  3. planreview1 Says:

    President Ford appeared at a public event at Woodfield Mall.

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