Demolition of 'Blues Brothers' chase mall begins

January 24, 2012 10:00:00 PM PST
Demolition began Wednesday at Dixie Square Mall -- made famous by the Blues Brothers -- in south suburban Harvey.

The Dixie Square Mall opened in 1965 and was in the scene of a car chase in the 1980 Chicago-based movie.

Since then, the mall has remained empty and was recently condemned because of health and safety concerns.

Crews will start by pulling out asbestos before any structures actually come down. It's not known yet what will become of the land.

Jake and Elwood began the demolition of the Dixie Square Mall in 1979. Neglect, nature and neighborhood scavengers did the rest.

Nonetheless, the Dixie Square Mall has stood -- a stubborn testament to the south suburb's struggle. But now, after nearly a half-dozen false starts, multiple owners and many unfulfilled promises, the dead mall may finally get buried.

How does 40 years of nothing happen? "The financial investment runs out, the vigor of ownership runs out, tenancy prospects change, then it's just easier to walk away than try to sustain it," said Maurice Williams, South Suburban Mayors and Managers.

The ABC 7 I-Team first reported in 2010 that the $4 million asbestos removal and demolition is being paid for thanks to a federal disaster grant intended for communities that suffered flood damage from the remnants of Hurricane Ike.

Governor Pat Quinn declared Dixie Square worthy of disaster status at the height of his re-election campaign.

"We want to make sure that this is a site available for development," Quinn said.

"This project is really becoming a beacon of light for economic transformation for the south suburban region," said Williams.

"Our overall goal is to bring in retail so our residents have someplace to grocery shop, to buy some clothes, they don't have to go outside of Harvey, they can stay right in their community," said Sandra Alvarado, Harvey spokesperson.

Demolition is expected to take six months. The mall was deemed too dangerous for ABC7 to enter but John Tisdall of McDonagh Demolition says sunken ceilings and countless critters make it an eerie place.

"It's alright during the day but you definitely don't want to be in there at night," he said.

Harvey's planning director tells ABC7 the private developer that now owns the Dixie Square site does not have signed or contracts or letters of intent from retailers interested in the property.

Regardless of how long it takes to re-develop, Harvey's mayor thinks just clearing the 600,000 square foot eye-sore will be a sign of an improving economic outlook in the suburb.