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by Mike Isaacs

Westfield Old Orchard is set to do away with its long-standing food court and to make other changes to its popular regional shopping center to help draw more people so it can better survive the harsh economy.

“It’s no secret that the hard times have hit us, and it’s very evident in our vacancy reports and our sales reports and the number of bankruptcies from our tenants that these are hard times,” said Westfield Development Director Hide Kashima. “We looked at this and said status quo is not acceptable at this point.”

The Village Board Monday approved three amendments to the outdoor mall’s site plan ordinance including eliminating the food court and its familiar apple on the roof and replacing it with a new building; changing the location of 18 “retail merchandising units” scattered throughout the shopping center; and displaying new upscale vehicles in specific locations of the mall.

“We have to get the shopping traffic back into the mall,” Kashima said. “By doing so, this will drive sales up and if sales go up, vacancies will eventually go down. That’s the simple approach that we’re taking at this moment.”

None of the plans would expand the size of the shopping center, but Westfield officials believe they would make better use of existing space.

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