Galesburg’s Sandburg Mall braces for change with pending JCPenney closure

GALESBURG, Illinois -- There are still some bright lights at Sandburg Mall on Friday, Jan. 19.  Mostly, there are dark corridors once filled with shoppers at long-gone stores.

"Seeing what's happened to the mall is kind of a shame," said Terry Stegall, a shopper from nearby Abingdon.

Sandburg Mall will be evolving slowly in coming years.  That's as national retail changes force a rethinking of the 1974-era property.

"The days of these malls are coming to an end," continued Stegall.

The latest evidence of that coming as JCPenney announces it will close its Galesburg location in early May 2018.  The store had a presence in Galesburg for nearly a century.

On Friday, shoppers were stopping by to look for bargains and reminisce.

"I was pretty disappointed," said Rita Interial, a Galesburg shopper.  "I was disappointed because I knew they were going to close some stores, but I didn't think they were going to hit our city."

Once JCPenney departs, Bergner's will be the last anchor store at the mall.  There are talks of redevelopment, but that could take years to become reality.

"There's a lot of things that could happen with that property," said Ken Springer, president of the Knox County Area Partnership for Economic Development.  "It sits on some extremely valuable commercial real estate."

While JCPenney made extensive renovations at the store in 2016, the upcoming closing reflects national trends more than local shopping preferences.

"It's one of my favorite stores to go to," continued Interial.  "Stop by and get what you need really quick."

The bright lights fading to black in coming weeks, as bare hallways offer a silent farewell.

"I think people have pretty well seen that the end is in sight," Stegall concluded.

An end that leaves the future of Sandburg Mall very much up for grabs in Galesburg.