HUNTLEY – Nestled up against Interstate 90, the Huntley Outlet Center always has appeared on first glance to be ripe for an impromptu, mid-commute shopping trip.
Those in the area know getting to and from the 19-year-old shopping center can be trickier than it looks. An Interstate 90-Route 47 interchange project scheduled for completion next summer will, for the first time, give eastbound travelers the chance to get off on Route 47. Westbound travelers will get the peace of mind of exiting onto 47 with the ability to easily get back on Interstate 90.
The reverberation for local business is still to be seen, but many are hoping the interchange will mean big things for the outlet center, which sits at a corner of the two major roadways involved.
“Everyone in the village of Huntley is looking for the economic benefits of the full interchange, and everyone’s excited about it,” said Margo Griffin, business development coordinator for the village. “And especially to the outlet center because they rely on people coming from further away.”
About 50 businesses currently inhabit the outlet center, but some storefronts remain unused. Popular stores like Sunglass Hut and Nine West have left the center in recent years.
“For the last 10 years since I’ve been working for Huntley, people have been talking about the interchange for this center to meet its potential,” Griffin said. “I think, since I’ve been here, it hasn’t met its potential.”
In a statement emailed to the Northwest Herald, outlet center spokeswoman Darcy Rutzen said the interchange project will be a “very positive development” for the center.
“The interchange will make access to Huntley Outlet Center more convenient for our customers and will be more welcoming for those who live outside the immediate area,” Rutzen wrote. “We look forward to additional growth in the Huntley area as a result of this improvement.”
Rutzen didn’t address inquiries into the current state of the outlet center or whether the center is fielding increased interest from outside businesses with construction on the interchange underway.
Griffin said she was unaware if the center has had any increased business interest to this point.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they did,” she said. “Obviously, we hope they’re getting more calls.”
Ellen Leighton, store manager at Corningware Corelle Revere, has been at the outlet center for 18 years.
“I would like to see more retailers come into the empty stores,” she said.
She added that she’s excited about what the interchange could mean for her housewares business. She expects the center to look very different in a few years.
“I’m feeling very optimistic about the future of the mall because of the interchange,” Leighton said. “Some of the business didn’t know where they could exit to get here.”
Griffin is similarly positive about what the interchange might bring.
“They definitely have (unused) room, but if you look, everywhere that’s an issue,” she said. “We’re looking for a good shot in the are for the outlet center.”