MARKHAM | A court-appointed receiver for the Lincoln Mall in Matteson has spent the past week trying to appease tenants to stay in the mall while also working to fix instances where emergency exit signs actually lead to dead-ends.
John Suzuki, a principal for Collateral Trustee who was appointed last week to oversee needed repairs to Lincoln Mall, told Cook County Judge Thomas Condon on Thursday his priority was to fix instances where emergency exit signs that indicate exit paths are actually blocked off.
But Suzuki said he also has had to work to encourage the 12 national tenants in the mall to keep their stores open. The mall’s owner, Michael Kohan, had indicated previously those tenants would leave if a receiver were given control of the mall.
Suzuki said it turned out to be true that many tenants were considering leaving. But he said that was because many of those tenants were unsure if anything would ever be done to fix such problems as exposed electrical wiring, a dismantled sprinkler system, blocked fire exits and a roof crumbling in spots.
Suzuki said that eight of those 12 national tenants have since given him verbal assurances they will stay in the mall, after learning of the Collateral Trustee plans to fix problem areas. He also said he is still trying to reach the other four national tenants.
“I will continue to reach out. I want to work with all of them,” he said.
Expenses for the work done so far has been covered by a $100,000 deposit that Kohan made earlier this month. John Kennedy, an attorney hired by Matteson village government, said officials are going to require another deposit in the near future to cover continuing costs.
That deposit will be the focus of the next court hearing before Condon; scheduled for Sept. 5. Kohan’s attorneys said Thursday they plan to oppose such a request. Although Suzuki said that, “the owner thus far has complied with every request we asked.”
Suzuki said more money will be needed for the second phase of his Lincoln Mall repair plan — which is to create new entrances to the shopping mall. The mall was designed to have four anchor stores, yet only one, Carson Pirie Scott, remains. The loss of stores such as Sears, J.C. Penney and Montgomery Ward — with the latter two demolished — has altered the number of entrances into the mall.
Suzuki said he wants permission to hire an architect to design those exits, and would like to have something approved within 120 days.
Suzuki also anticipated another area where he will need to hire attorneys — Lincoln Mall’s owner successfully appealed its property tax bill last year. Yet the Cook County assessor’s office has bumped the value of the property this year to the old level.
“We want to have an attorney to appeal the taxes so they can be restored to last year’s level,” he said