Water Tower Place, Chicago’s original vertical mall on the showcase Michigan Avenue shopping strip, will be closed to unaccompanied minors on Friday and Saturday evenings “to eliminate disruptive behavior.”
The so-called “parental guidance required” policy will be implemented at 4 p.m. Friday and remain in effect every Friday and Saturday afternoon and evening until further notice.
It was announced by the mall’s general manager, just days after the latest in a series of troubling incidents involving a marauding group of young people harassing, intimidating, robbing and attacking shoppers in and around the mall, 835 N. Michigan.
The unprecedented policy will be “strictly enforced throughout the shopping center property, including exterior entrances,” officials said.
To gain entry to the mall, patrons must either be over the age of 17 with an ID to prove it or accompanied by a “parent or supervising adult who is at least 21 years old,” the policy states.
“In an effort to eliminate disruptive behavior by unsupervised youth, we made the difficult decision to implement a curfew program,” Mitch Feldman, senior general manager of Water Tower Place, was quoted as saying in a news release.
“The PGR program is intended to help provide a safe, peaceful experience at our shopping center. All are welcome at Water Tower Place and at any time. We simply require that during certain weekend hours, families shop together and guests under 18 are accompanied by an adult.”
Feldman could not be reached for comment.
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said Water Tower Place has been a “Michigan Avenue staple” for Chicagoans and tourists alike for more than 40 years and, if rigid rules are needed to keep it that way, so be it.
“Recent events involving large numbers of juveniles engaged in criminal behavior downtown have been organized and planned on social media,” Hopkins wrote in an email to the Sun-Times.
“Frequently, we have seen Water Tower Place specifically listed as the rallying point for a large group to assemble with the intent to engage in mob action. This new policy will help Water Tower management curtail this activity.”
Daniel O’Shea –– who replaced the slain Paul Bauer as commander of the Chicago Police Department’s 18th District –– was equally supportive of the program. He hopes it will prevent flash mobs from menacing shoppers along the Magnificent Mile.
“This new PGR program will allow families to enjoy shopping, entertainment and dining venues while also serving as a positive benefit to the residential and business community,” O’Shea was quoted as saying.
With multiple entrances, a theater and underground parking lot, the parental guidance policy could be somewhat difficult to enforce.
But Water Tower management has apparently worked out the logistics.
Announcements will be made inside the mall, starting at 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. That will give young shoppers who are not accompanied by adults time to finish eating and shopping and get out before the curfew begins.
After 4 p.m., trained public safety officers will be stationed at all Water Tower Place entrances to check IDs of anyone who appears to be “17 years old or younger” and distribute “optional” wristbands to those who present valid ID’s.
Security guards inside the mall will also card those who appear to be underage and are not wearing wristbands.
Valid ID’s will include: a state issued driver’s license or ID card, a military ID, a school ID card, or a passport. The identification must be tamper-proof and include a photograph and date of birth.
John Chikow, president and CEO of the Magnificent Mile Association, said he supports the new policy “to ensure a positive experience” for patrons.
“Other properties have had challenges around the country and have needed to do what they needed to do. And we support our members doing what they need to do,” Chikow said.
Pressed on whether the adult supervision policy will encourage or discourage shoppers, Chikow said, “We’ll just have to see how it plays out.”
Earlier this week, a person was charged in connection with an attack in which dozens of teenagers beat three people last week on a Red Line platform on the Near North Side.
One juvenile was charged with felony aggravated battery and mob action for the Dec. 29 attack at the State/Chicago Red Line station, according to a statement issued by Hopkins.
The victims were waiting for a train about 7:30 p.m. at the station, 800 N. State St., when the group of teens stepped onto the platform, police said. One of the people in the group asked a 26-year-old man if he was recording them, which he denied.
The horde of teens then approached the man, a 29-year-old woman and her 28-year-old boyfriend and started punching them, according to police and the victims, who asked not to be named.