From an early stop on the stagecoach line from Chicago to Rockford, it is a community that has retained its historic small town roots while growing to become a vibrant suburb.
Giving new meaning to the phrase “Bloom where you’re planted,” west suburban Bloomingdale has continued to blossom in new and different ways since its settlement in the early 1830s.
One of the oldest communities in DuPage County, Bloomingdale grew along a popular roadway leading to and from Chicago. In the mid 1830s, two daily stages ran from Chicago through what was then Meacham’s Grove to Elgin, and eventually to Rockford — a trek that beginning to end typically took 24 hours. By the end of the 1830s, several hundred wagons and travelers came through Bloomingdale each day.
Today, the village is a destination in its own right rather than a stop along a route, garnering interest among those interested in living, working, shopping and having fun at its various attractions and institutions.
“Character” is a word that can be readily associated with Bloomingdale. There is a decided historic character to the community’s Old Town section. Rolling hills and winding trails in parks and public spaces lend a different type of scenic
character. And the notion of personal character is the focus of the village’s Character Counts! Coalition, a group that recognizes people in the community who are committed to public service and demonstrate leadership and personal integrity.
Bloomingdale residents and leaders agree that character and hardiness are hallmarks of this suburb. It didn’t take Village Administrator Pietro Scalera very long to become enamored with Bloomingdale after he settled in the community several years ago with his wife, a Bloomingdale native.
“Even though the population has grown since she lived here, it has that sense of a small town community, in that people seem to come together, whether it’s through various community events or the park district. It’s amazing how, for a town of 22,000, so many people seem to know about each other,” says Scalera, adding, “Coming from the city, I fell in love with it. My family teases me that I don’t ever want to leave here. And I don’t.”
That close-knit aspect of Bloomingdale is echoed by longtime resident Beverly Petrosius, who is active in a variety of ways in town, including through the Bloomingdale Artists Association. As for the community’s effort to maintain its character while expanding and evolving, she says, “I think it’s been a natural growth in town, and it’s been handled very well. Bloomingdale is a very comfortable community.”
The fact that Bloomingdale is close to expressways and other suburbs like Roselle, Hanover Park and Schaumburg also makes it an appealing place to visit, work, or buy or rent a home. “Because of our location — we’re not too far from the city and are close to some other growing communities — there is a lot for people to do in this entire area,” points out Scalera.
As for what there is to do within Bloomingdale itself, there are a variety of places and events that reflect how this community continues to, well, bloom.
OLD TOWN BLOOMINGDALE
A visible and popular reminder of the town’s history, Old Town Bloomingdale is a focal point of the community in many ways.
A collection of historic clapboard buildings mixed with newer stores that were built to blend in with the turn-of-the-century atmosphere, Old Town is “one of the quaint areas of Bloomingdale blending the past with the future,” says Jane Hove, president and CEO of the Bloomingdale Chamber of Commerce.
A hub of activity throughout the year, Old Town Bloomingdale hosts a variety of programs at Old Town Park and the Park District Museum. Open to the public four days a week, the museum is housed in the village’s oldest structure — the circa-1849 former First Baptist Church of Christ — and offers up to seven exhibits a year. This time of year, the museum holds its annual holiday show, featuring the popular Lego Train City Exhibit.
Petrosius says that the museum is more than a gathering place — it connects people and their interests and skills. “We have an active artists’ community, which I think has grown around the museum,” she explains. “I took some painting classes that the park district offered at the museum, which is where I found out about the Bloomingdale Artists Association.”
Old Town Bloomingdale is also the site of a series of outdoor concerts in the summer and the Festival of Lights that begins on Nov. 27. “Pedestrians and motorists alike will be treated to a sparkling display of holiday lights
and sights in Old Town Park,” notes Josh Hendricks, director of marketing and communications for the Bloomingdale Park District.
There is something new coming to this “old” district, too. In 2016, the village will begin improvements in Old Town Bloomingdale. “There are plans in the works for retail development, restaurants and a walking plaza for easy access to Old Town Park,” notes Hove.
The redevelopment plans are specifically designed to preserve history while providing modern amenities and improving infrastructure, including the reconstruction of streets and the replacement of water and storm sewer systems, says Scalera. “Old Town has undergone a number of changes since first being established in 1845,” he explains. “The village’s plan for the area focuses on a number of design elements that will help improve walkability and circulation within the area.”
STRATFORD SQUARE MALL
It may not date to the 19th century, but another prominent destination in Bloomingdale is undergoing a revitalization.
“Stratford Square Mall is planning to undergo redevelopment soon, which will take place in phases,” reports Stacy Kallas, marketing director for Stratford Square.
According to Kallas, the mall’s new owner, StreetMac Asset Managers LLC, has committed more than $40 million to update the mall and attract new stores and eateries. Currently, the mall is home to 135 national and local retailers — including Macy’s, Kohl’s, Sears and Carsons — and an array of restaurants.
Given the fact that the mall will be a hotspot for the holidays, Kallas says that the center is balancing its shopping focus with special seasonal events. “We kick off the season with a Santa’s Arrival event which will include Channel 11 WTTW, Miss Lori’s Campus, Curious George, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Mrs. Claus and an elf. Then we have Lunch with Santa, Storytime with Santa, Park Days with Santa, Pet Photos with Santa and holiday performances,” she says.
As the mall is updated, it’s also reflecting the new ways that people utilize such locales. For example, reflecting a modern integration of offerings and collaboration, Stratford Square has teamed up with the Bloomingdale Public Library to offer Storytime with the Library on the first Thursday of every month and with the Park District for Park Days on the third Saturday of every month.
Another change in malls in recent years is the emphasis on entertainment. “Shopping centers are really turning into family destination points with the addition of entertainment and dining options to their retail mix. Stratford Square Mall really reflects that new trend with the amount of entertainment it offers its customers,” Kallas says, citing venues like Round 1 Bowling & Amusement, the Jolly Express train, Island Carousel and FunFlatables.
In addition to Stratford Square, Bloomingdale is served by Stratford Crossing, site of a new Mariano’s grocery store slated to open in 2017. Lake Street and Army Trail Road also have many types of businesses and retailers,
“Shopping local is great for our tax base, we offer a myriad of stores from big box to those that are locally owned and operated,” says Hove.
According to Scalera, it’s a good time for commercial expansion. “The resurgence of the economy has had an effect on us, in that we’re starting to see things that had suffered from the recession are coming back,” he says, citing new businesses in town like a Chik-fil-A restaurant and a new TIF development along Lake Street.
AT THE MOVIES
To Kallas’ point, one of the popular anchors of Stratford Square Mall is the Century Theatre, which offers 16 screens and all-stadium seating, along with an in-house café and arcade. With the upcoming, much-anticipated release of the latest “Star Wars” movie, the theater complex is likely to be even more of a draw in November and December.
Moviegoers also flock to another cinema in town called the Picture Show for films that are shown a few weeks after their initial release. With newly remodeled seats, the Picture Show provides viewing benefits like digital surround sound and projection and concession deals like $1 hot dog and popcorn combos.
HILTON INDIAN LAKES RESORT
Beyond motion pictures, entertainment takes other forms in Bloomingdale. Hilton Indian Lakes Resort is a 300-plus room hotel which also offers extensive space for meetings and special events. Featuring a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired design, the resort also boasts a well-known spa, the Blackhawk Trace Golf Course, and several restaurants and bars.
“One of the first questions we answer from returning guests is, ‘Is the Cave Bar still there?’” says Amy Egolf, director of sales and marketing. “And we’re delighted to say that our famous lobby bar is still the centerpiece of our impressive, six-story atrium.” The resort boasts several other eateries including the Master’s Clubhouse overlooking the golf course, Shiraz on the Water fine dining, and a speakeasy-style place called Izzy and Moe’s. Indian Lakes Resort also features the recently remodeled Resolution Spa and Wellness Center.
This time of year, Indian Lakes Resort offers a variety of holiday-related things to do including a Thanksgiving Brunch, a Brunch with Santa on Dec. 13 and 20, and a New Year’s Eve Gala.
Those looking to make fitness-related resolutions as part of the new year may also want to check out Indian Lakes. “We are proud to be one of the country’s four Biggest Loser Resorts, and the only property in the Midwest,” says Egolf of the spa’s tie to the Biggest Loser weight loss program as seen in the television show. “Just like the programs offered in Florida, New York and California, our Biggest Loser guests commit to a seven-day program cycle and can choose to stay and participate for multiple cycles.”
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Those looking for some new exercise routines can find other ways to burn off calories and steam as well. Starting in December and weather permitting, Villa Olivia in nearby Bartlett opens up ski, snowboard and tubing hills. In town, the Bloomingdale Park District offers a sled hill at Westlake Park.
Throughout the year, residents and visitors alike can be found at Spring Creek Reservoir Forest Preserve in Bloomingdale, walking or running on trails that wind around the shoreline. Set on 90 acres,
the preserve’s habitat includes meadows, woodland and an oak savanna, in addition to the reservoir where licensed anglers can fish for sunfish, bluegill and bass.
Scalera, for his part, says the trails in the forest preserve and other parts of the community are a way to truly connect people with nature, fitness and one another. “Bloomingdale has a lot of inter-connectivity with plenty of interesting trails people can use for recreational or personal use,” he points out.
On the topic of connecting with others — and circling back to the notion of character — Bloomingdale’s Character Counts! Coalition is as much a part of the community’s figurative landscape as trails are to the physical landscape.
As with other Character Counts groups and initiatives around the country, the Bloomingdale chapter seeks to build and nurture character, via the pillars of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and good citizenship.
The group meets on the first Wednesday of every month, takes part in various town initiatives, and sponsors recognition awards and events for adults and youth.
According to Barb Weber, the assistant village administrator of Bloomingdale who has long been involved with and helped lead Character Counts, the coalition ultimately begets more character. “It is all the community organizations and entities coming together in an effort to highlight good things in our community,” explains Weber, adding that Bloomingdale’s chapter continues to flourish. “This group has really stayed and continued to build. We’ve added businesses, too, so that we recognize businesses every year that do good things, whether it’s what they donate to good causes in the community or just how they treat their customers.”
In addition to the Character Counts! group, Bloomingdale residents’ penchant for giving back to the community is evident in its several other service groups and interest organizations, such as the Lions Club, Historical Society, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Artists Association.
Petrosius, a member of the Artists Association, agrees that Bloomingdale is a close-knit community in many ways. In addition to meeting regularly and holding two art shows during the year, the Artists Association raises funds in order to offer scholarships to local students, says Petrosius. It also teams up with the library on programs that pair book readings with art and food. νEdit Module