The "neighborhood" known as Ford City includes little more than an eponymous shopping center and its surrounding parking lots. Dozens of stores, a food court and a 14-screen movie theater are housed here, making this a popular destination for people from all over Chicago looking to catch a flick, get a bite and pick up a few items, all under one roof.
Ford City Facts
Location: 13.5 miles southwest of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Westlawn, Ashburn, Scottsdale
Boundaries: Railroad yards to the north, Pulaski Road to the east, Ford City Drive to the south and Cicero Avenue to the west.
Then and Now
In 1942, soon after Pearl Harbor and Germany’s declaration of war on the United States, the country was officially launched into battle and government officials were confronted with the challenge of boosting military production and creating masses of warplanes—fast.
Though war had been waged against all of the Axis powers, combat in Southeast Asia was raging, which required a great expansion of the U.S. Air Force. In order to meet the demand for fighter planes and other military aircraft, the government first set forth to build the largest factory the world had ever seen. Construction began on the Dodge Chicago Aircraft Plant in 1942, and with the help of about 17,000 construction workers, it was up and running by 1944. The main facility of the plant was only one story tall and covered more than 30 city blocks. Until the end of the war, the plant was used to create bomber jets, most notably the B-29.
After the war ended in 1945 the facility was left dormant until 1947, when entrepreneur and automobile designer Preston Tucker bought the plant to build his infamous "Tucker Torpedo" cars. The upstart cars were greeted with more media hype than probably any other car in the history of the American automobile industry, but it wasn’t enough to save the company—or maybe it was the hype that doomed the model from the beginning. Only about 50 Torpedo prototypes were produced before the company folded a year later, amid corruption allegations and federal investigations.
Once Tucker shuttered the plant, it lay vacant and unused again, but not for long. The Korean War started in 1950, and this time the Ford Motor Company contracted with the government to manufacture jet engines, eventually leading to the name, Ford City. Ford continued to produce jet engines for nearly a decade, and at its height, the Ford plant employed as many as 12,000 workers. By 1959, though, the demand for fighter jet engines waned, and the Ford Plant was closed.
The latest incarnation of Ford City began six years after the closing of the Ford Plant. Real estate developer and entrepreneur Harry F. Chaddick envisioned a large shopping center and industrial park on the site. The industrial park came first and was an immediate success, returning jobs to the community where a vacuum had recently been created. The shopping mall portion of Ford City opened its doors in 1965, half of which was and outdoor strip-mall and the other half was covered. Many of the old facilities were demolished to make space for parking lots and about 80 stores were opened in the covered mall (there are more than 150 stores in all). JC Penny and Wieboldt’s department stores served as anchors on either end of the shopping center, and Sears, Carson Pririe Scott and Montgomery Ward also occupied storefronts.
Ford City Mall (7601 S. Cicero Ave, 773-767-6400) has undergone several changes in ownership that were each accompanied by major transformations and facelifts over the past 40 years. Many stores (such as Wieboldt’s and Montgomery Ward) have closed their doors, replaced by newer franchises. In 1987, a 14-theatre multiplex was opened at Ford City along with a new food court with more than a dozen concessions. So even if you don’t feel like going on a shopping spree and dropping buku bucks, the site offers area residents entertainment and dining options that bring a fun scene to Chicago’ southwest side neighborhoods.
The mall’s main doors open early—at 7 a.m., 365 days per year—so people can come and get in a little exercise by power walking around the expansive complex before the stores open. Though this may sound a bit odd, it can be pretty useful in a climate as volatile as Chicago’s—both in the extremely cold winter months and the hot and muggy summertime. Not to mention the mall’s 1.6 million square feet of ground makes for a good-size track.
What’s on the Menu?
Ford City Mall also provides neighboring locals a good variety of dining options with a bunch of separate restaurants and a food court cleverly dubbed "Food City."
For on-the-go shoppers, a quick bite may be all your looking for once that tummy starts to grumble. So swing by Food City for an array of appetite appeasing choices you can grab in a flash. Go for a classic fast food standard like McDonalds, or satisfy your taste for Chinese cuisine with China Max and your taste for Italian with Sbarro’s. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’re in luck: Stop by Auntie Anne’s Pretzels or Bresler Ice Cream & Yogurt for your sweet fix.
Believe it or not, plenty of folks come to Ford City just to eat, skipping the whole shopping deal altogether. Popular family dining spots such as Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill (773-767-0711) provide a nice sit-down dinner and fun-loving atmosphere that is well-liked by groups of co-workers getting a few drinks at the end of day as well as parents with young children who can eat off the kids’ menu. For anyone with a hearty hunger or just a hankering for some good home cookin’, Old Country Buffet (773-585-3858) is an all-you-can-eat schmorgasbord of traditional American breakfast, lunch and dinner fare. Pile it on and when you’ve finished that plate, go back up for another round—remembering to save room for dessert, of course. Also serving up some mighty fine classic cuisine is IHOP (773-627-5064). Just because it happens to be the International House of Pancakes doesn’t mean this diner can’t hold its own when it comes to soup, sandwich, salad and entree choices. We like to lunch here, that way whether we’re in the mood for a more brunch-y meal—like a crepe, omelet, pancake or waffles—or fancy a juicy cheeseburger and fries or savory pot roast, we can decide in the moment and get just what we want.
Best Shopping Stops
Obviously, Ford City offers residents in surrounding neighborhoods—and Chicagoans from all over the city—some top-notch shopping. With about 75 different retail stores in one complex, Ford City Mall is the ultimate shopper’s paradise, complete with nationwide brands and an eclectic mix of establishments to cover all your needs. Most of the storefronts here are familiar chains that have become staples in any major shopping district, from downtown department stores to suburban outlet plazas. Recognizable names that have stood the test of time and provide quality goods (See below for a full list of shops).
As in any mall, the main focus is always on fashion and apparel. We like that at Ford City you can get both upscale trends and bargain-priced styles under one roof. Get your fill of really cute yet inexpensive pumps, sandals, loafers and sneakers at Famous Footwear or Payless Shoe Source, then splurge on your bling with diamonds from Zales or Lyla’s Jewelers.
Sometimes being fashionable can spill over into home decor. When it’s time to update the bedroom or a change of season inspires a change of motif, check out the merchandise at Anna’s Linens (773-767-1673). Not only do they have great deals on bedding, pillows, shams, dust ruffles, comforters and duvets at this mega housewares hub, but Anna’s stocks a beautiful assortment of stylish window treatments, dish sets, candle holders, furniture slipcovers and even side tables to finish off a whole new interior look.
When the CTA Orange Line was built in 1993, Ford City Mall was intended to be the final destination of the rail line. Unfortunately, the full plan was never seen through to fruition and Midway Airport (located about two miles to the north of Ford City) remains the end of the line to this day. No worries, though, it is still easy enough to get to and from Ford City by public transportation. Coming from the north, the #54 Cicero Avenue bus runs directly to Ford City (there’s also the X54 express bus in case you’re in a hurry). From the south, Pace Bus (Chicagoland’s suburban bus company) services residents of Oak Lawn and Evergreen Park with a fleet of bus lines operating along Cicero Avenue as well.
Of course, public transportation isn’t necessary if you’ve got your own wheels. The easiest way to get to Ford City Mall by car is from Cicero Avenue, but you can also reach the premises from Ford City Drive via Pulaski Road. From downtown Chicago, the Stevenson Expressway (I-55) will take you most of the way, then get off at the Pulaski Road exit and follow it south about five miles straight to the mall. Huge parking lots surround Ford City Mall, so once you’ve arrived finding a spot should be no problem and the shopping spree can begin!
Ford City may just be a mall, but this expansive center houses an entire community of businesses that gives the place a neighborhood-like feel, where local residents meet for fun and can find everything they need in one spot, from clothes and shoes to snacks and meals to exercise and entertainment.
Ford City Mall – 7601 S. Cicero Ave. – (773) 767-6400
Mon-Fri 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. and
Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
AMC Theatres 14 – (773) 582-1839
Bally Total Fitness – (773) 582-6433
Sometimes it makes more sense to view the city of Chicago as a bunch of separate neighborhoods, especially when it comes to real estate. Whether you are in the market for a loft, condo, townhome, or house, it is just as important to inspect the surrounding area as it is to inspect the home’s foundation. Ford City is just one Chicago community with an abundance of residential properties, and a life all its own. From where you send your kids to school to where you dine at night, the information we provide is an essential piece of the puzzle when you’re trying to decide whether or not to buy that beautiful loft or adorable house in Ford City.