The mall in suburban Matteson was built in the 1970s and has seriously deteriorated. The village says it's a hazard for shoppers and workers. A New York investor bought it last summer. Village officials say he hasn't delivered on promises to fix the problems.
Lincoln Mall is 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.
The New York investor bought the mall at auction 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.