MARKHAM | A Cook County judge on Thursday appointed a receiver requested by Matteson village government to oversee needed repairs to the Lincoln Mall shopping center.
Judge Thomas J. Condon issued the order after listening to arguments from attorneys hired by the village and the mall’s owner, New York-based developer Michael Kohan, about the condition of the shopping center at Cicero Avenue and Lincoln Highway.
Among the problems village officials had cited at the mall are exposed electrical wiring, blocked fire exits, a dismantled sprinkler system and a roof that is crumbling in spots.
John Kennedy, an attorney for Matteson, said the village wants to hire Collateral Trustee, a company that would take over repairs at the mall to ensure they are done, and send the bills to Kohan.
Village officials previously had asked the court that Lincoln Mall be closed while repair work was done. But Collateral Trustee Principal John T. Suzuki said he would be able to keep the mall’s roughly 50 stores open while the work is done.
Suzuki, whose professional record also includes overseeing the renovation of a Circuit City store once located across Cicero Avenue from Lincoln Mall, said he still has to tour the shopping mall and could not say how long it would take for him to have repairs completed
Kennedy was critical of Kohan, who was not present in court Thursday. He said the mall owner has offered only vague proposals for repairing the center. Kennedy said the proposal Kohan put forth to the court this week was no more detailed than a proposal that Matteson village officials rejected in November for lack of detail.
Condon said the fact that Collateral Trustee could keep the mall open was a significant factor in his decision to approve the receivership.
“If I were to shut down the mall, it would be a death penalty to all the people who work in those shops,” Condon said, adding that hiring the receiver will ensure that repair work gets done.
But Michael Ashenbrenner, an attorney for Kohan, said the mall owner wants to be allowed to make the repairs needed without having to deal with outside interests such as a receiver.
He said Kohan showed good faith by depositing $100,000 in a fund to allow repairs to start and also sending a repair proposal that complied with the guidelines set by the court last week.
Ashenbrenner also said he has been told that several of the larger tenants of Lincoln Mall, whom he would not identify, would leave the mall if a receiver were appointed.
But Condon said that argument did not sway him.
“The fact that some national tenants might leave does not give me pause to appoint a receiver,” the judge said. “I could also unappoint a receiver in the future, if I so chose.”
Attorneys are scheduled to appear in court again Thursday to set a schedule under which repairs would take place, and to outline how much Kohan would have to deposit into a fund to allow the receiver to move forward with repairs.
“We expect the owner to fund additional deposits,” Kennedy said.