Lincoln Mall unsafe, should be closed, Matteson officials say

August 9, 2013 2:38:05 AM PDT
''Honestly, I don't believe they'll close it. How can they?'' asks Shareese Tovar, whose family built a business at the now-closing Lincoln Mall in Matteson, Ill.

"What do you tell a business owner that's been here this long and stuck with this mall? What do you tell them?" Tovar asks after the village of Matteson told her and other owners they had to move out - as early as this weekend.

Lincoln Mall, which opened in the 1970s, has been deteriorating for decades. It's only half full. Attempts to excise abandoned department stores have left not only an eyesore, but also a danger, according to building inspectors, including emergency exits that lead to nowhere, exposed insulation and a sprinkler system that doesn't cover the entire building.

"We're not comfortable with the mall operating any longer. People being in the mall is unsafe, in our opinion," Sam Anello, Matteson Fire Department, said.

A New York investor bought the mall at auction last summer for just $150,000. Village leaders say they told him about $9 million in fines already assessed and the need for millions more in improvements to bring the place up to code.

"He's been giving us plans, telling us he's going to do the plans, but nothing has been delivered to the village to correct the problems," Brian Mitchell, Matteson village administrator, said.

"Our intention is not to demolish the mall. Our intention is to bring it back to the status we all enjoyed many years ago," Paula Farr, Matteson trustee, said.

Now, shoppers plus the nearly 100 people who rely on Lincoln Mall for their livelihood are left in limbo.

"I think it's sad for all the people who own business rely on this to put food on their table. Ultimately it's the landlord who didn't put any money into the mall and this is the reaction," Darwin Sanders, Lincoln Mall store manager, said.

"It really grieves me to go to Orland or River Oaks to shop. We pay taxes. The money should stay here," Phyllis Jones Butler, Lincoln Mall shopper, said.

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