A Spanish-style shopping court with an unusual history was sold for $48 million in suburban Chicago. Plaza Del Lago is the country’s second-oldest mall which opened in 1928.
The sale of the shopping center to Retail Properties announced on Wednesday marks a significant transition, as it was owned for 47 years by Chicago real estate developer Joseph Moss, according to news reported by Crain’s.
Before Plaza Del Lago was drawn up by architect Edwin Clarke in 1926, the strip of land in Wilmette was referred to as “No Man’s Land.” For unknown reasons, the 22-acre plot of lakefront land at 1515 Sheridan Road was unincorporated, according to Robert Shea’s book, From No Man’s Land, To Plaza del Lago.
When an area is unincorporated it isn’t governed by a municipality—so the portion of Sheridan Road remained unpaved and the area sat mostly vacant except for a few gas stations. Even though Wilmette had plans to annex the land and turn it into a park, it just never happened.
The layout of Plaza del Lago included four buildings consisting of apartments, shops, and a movie theater centered around 50 parking spaces. Although its typical now, including parking was a new idea at the time.
The Spanish style architecture seen in Plaza Del Lago was a popular aesthetic in the 1920s. It was something that Clarke specialized in, although he mostly focused on private residences along the North Shore. His other notable project was the design of the Brookfield Zoo, which was the first zoo in the U.S. to feature enclosed natural environments rather than cages with bars.