Skokie designates Old Orchard Mall as a business district, clearing way for extra 1% sales tax

Added revenue will be used to 'revitalize' the north suburban mall
SKOKIE, Ill. (WLS) -- It could soon cost you a little more to shop at Westfield Old Orchard Mall in north suburban Skokie.

The village voted 6-1 Monday night to designate the mall as a business district so that it can tack on an extra 1% sales tax when you spend money there. The added revenue will be used to revitalize the mall.

About 80% of the shoppers roaming the sidewalks of Old Orchard mall are from out of town, according to Skokie village officials. The mall is the largest economic engine in the village and typically brings in about $50 million a year in sales tax revenue.

"It is iconic, not only for the village, but also for the region," said Len Becker, Skokie economic development manager. "And it's a major destination for shopping and entertainment."

Old Orchard opened in 1956, and village officials are anxious to keep it updated so it continues to draw shoppers from out of town. That's why they say they voted to designate the property as a business development district, which allows them to raise the sales tax 1% to fund improvements to the property.

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"That investment will pass through to finance improvements and enhance the customer experience at Old Orchard," Becker said.

Shoppers at the mall already pay a sales tax of 10.25%, and they have mixed opinions about raising it to 11.25% for retail and 13.25% for restaurants.

"I think it encourages people to shop elsewhere and go elsewhere," said Caroline, a Skokie resident.

"I think we could take it, honestly," shopper Marlene Gonzaga said.

It's been more than two decades since the mall has gotten significant capital investments to fund improvements.

Officials with Westfield, which owns the mall, said the tax money "will help modernize and revitalize the center to ensure it continues to thrive and provide benefits to the local community."

"Just infrastructure challenges, things that are very expensive," Becker said.

Those include improving heating and air conditioning, landscaping and new construction.

The village board has already approved designating the mall a business district. They are expected to approve the tax increase next month.
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