- Sep 28, 2020
While the entire retail sector has suffered from the impact of COVID, Northbrook Court has been forced to face an especially harsh series of events at a unique point in its history. The longtime center for luxury brands, owned and operated by Brookfield Properties, was in the early stages of an ambitious redevelopment project when the pandemic hit in March. Plans for that project are now on hold, as management focuses on supporting existing tenants. Northbrook Court is taking robust actions to attract customers, including major innovations for the holiday season.
As Northbrook Court General Manager Brian Lee acknowledges, “The pandemic has caused a lot of changes for us,” including the imminent closure of the Lord & Taylor anchor store and a few other businesses. “While our construction is paused, we’re putting our energy into helping our tenants and making sure we provide a safe, comfortable experience for customers.”
Throughout the spring and summer, Lee and his team instituted innovations to bring people back to Northbrook Court. Curbside pickup from stores, flash giveaway events, and dining incentive programs encouraged summer traffic, while outdoor space was put to creative use: Hi Five Sports Zone ran a pop-up camp in a section of the parking lot, while restaurant DiPescara added new patio seating.
Indoors, health practices and facility improvements maximized safety. “We have upgraded our air filters to a MERV-13 grade filtration system that captures airborne viruses,” explains Lee. “Working in tandem with our hand sanitizing stations, social distancing signage, thorough and intense cleanings, and complimentary face coverings, we’re prioritizing the health and safety of all those that walk through our doors.”
Currently, most of Northbrook Court’s tenants are open for business, including restaurants, stores, activity-based operators like Hi-Five, and the AMC movie theaters. Some, including Starbucks, Auntie Anne’s, Northbrook Play and Corner Bakery, remain temporarily closed, and others have reduced their hours of operation. The center’s website, NorthbrookCourt.com, is frequently updated with accurate store information.
Looking ahead to the holiday season, Northbrook Court plans to welcome guests for festive shopping even with safety restrictions in place. “We have a lot of ideas that we are working through now,” says Lee. For example, the traditional Santa experience will be re-imagined in ways that incorporate virtual and socially distanced visits. A new smartphone program will allow customers to reserve a time to visit a particular store, alleviating wait times when busy shopping hours strain required capacity limits. Another goal will be to support restaurants when outdoor dining is no longer feasible; an “indoor patio” will augment DiPescara’s seating. Outdoor space will also be used in creative ways to attract visitors.
Whatever the coming months hold, the health of Northbrook Court is of enormous importance not only to the businesses and employees based there, but to the entire Northbrook community that benefits from the taxes it generates. (The Village’s budget relies on sales taxes for 29 percent of its general fund revenue, and for decades Northbrook Court has been a primary source of those funds.) Lee credits the Village for being a strong partner through the uncertainties caused by the pandemic. “We’re working very closely with the Village through all of this,” he notes. “That relationship will be very important as we continue to assess the situation and evaluate what comes next.”