Judge orders Lincoln Mall owner to come up with $100,000, possibly more in future

2013-09-06T18:00:00Z 2013-09-06T21:46:22Z Judge orders Lincoln Mall owner to come up with $100,000, possibly more in futureGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
September 06, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

MARKHAM | A Cook County judge issued an order Friday requiring Lincoln Mall Holding LLC to come up with at least another $100,000 to help a court-ordered receiver make needed safety repairs to the south suburban shopping mall.

Judge Thomas J. Condon said the holding company, which previously deposited $100,000 into an account, must replenish that fund with another $100,000.

He also scheduled another court hearing for Oct. 4, at which time attorneys for Matteson village government said Friday they will be asking for even more money.

How much has yet to be determined, as John Suzuki, head of the receiver Collateral Trustee, said he will put together a budget in coming weeks to figure out how much money it will take to fix Lincoln Mall. Already, the mall has been found to have problems ranging from exposed electrical wiring, a dismantled sprinkler system, blocked fire exits and a crumbling roof.

Thus far, Suzuki has worked to fix some of those blocked fire exits, which used up the initial $100,000. He said completing such work, along with creating new second-floor exits, will cost more money.

Michael Aschenbrenner, an attorney representing Lincoln Mall Holding, said he believes state law prohibits a court-appointed receiver from seeking funding from the property owner to pay for repairs. He said they should either use rent payments from the mall tenants, or issue receiver notes to raise money for the project.

But Condon was skeptical, noting Suzuki has accomplished more in mall repairs during the past month than previous mall owners did during the past five years.

“That is because he is focused on making the building safe, as soon as possible,” Condon said.

John Kennedy, an attorney hired by Matteson, disputed Aschenbrenner’s view that it is wrong to seek funds from the property owner. At one point, he accused the holding company, controlled by New York real estate developer Michael Kohan, of wanting to remove the receiver so the owner could collect rents while doing nothing to fix the property.

“We have seen a year of the owner giving officials the 'yabba dabba',” to get out of making repairs, Kennedy said. “By his own admission, he can pay for repairs, he just doesn’t want to pay the receiver.”

But Aschenbrenner said the rents are not enough money to make all repairs. “You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip,” he said.

By Suzuki’s own accounting, it would cost about $136,000 per month to operate the mall, excluding real estate taxes. The mall is supposed to take in about $152,000 in rent and other fees paid by its tenants.

Suzuki said that leaves little funds left for emergency repairs — such as pipes in a second-floor bathroom that recently burst. The $15,000 cost of that repair used up any excess funds that might have existed for August.

Kennedy said Lincoln Mall currently loses about $1.2 million per year — or as he phrased it, “$100,000 a month under water.”

Kennedy asked Suzuki at one point, “can you make the (shopping mall) property safe based off the rent?”

To which Suzuki said, “No.”

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