MARKHAM | Matteson village officials are filing a lawsuit to close the major shopping mall in the community until various safety violations are fixed.
The 40-year-old Lincoln Mall, at Lincoln Highway and Cicero Avenue, currently has 45 stores in a 95-store capacity. Village officials said they had found various safety and building code violations, including exposed electrical wiring, blocked fire exists, a dismantled sprinkler system and a roof that was crumbling in spots.
That led the village on Wednesday to file a lawsuit, including a request for a temporary restraining order against the shopping center’s owner, Michael Kohan, and the various retailers located in the facility. The Carson Pirie Scott store in the mall is not affected by the lawsuit and will remain open.
Katy Broom, a spokeswoman hired by the law firm of Shefsky & Froelich to deal with the lawsuit,* said the legal activity was filed at the 6th District Cook County Circuit Courthouse in Markham.
Broom said village officials are hoping to get a decision from the courts next week, and there will be an initial court hearing at 2 p.m. Thursday before Judge Thomas Condon in Markham.
Village officials said they want an independent receiver to oversee repairs to fix the violations so the mall could reopen someday. In recent years, the mall’s owner had promised to make improvements. But an inspection last month showed that no repairs had been made.
“This was a difficult decision because of the important role Lincoln Mall has played in our community for so many years,” Village President Andre Ashmore said in a prepared statement. “We have a duty to protect the public."
“After repeatedly trying to work with this business owner on a correction plan, we can no longer allow him to ignore his responsibility at the expense of the health and safety of visitors,” Ashmore said. “We have no other choice than to close Lincoln Mall until it is safe.”
Kohan, a New York-based business executive who owns shopping malls across the country, was unavailable to comment. Officials with Lincoln Mall on Wednesday refused to answer questions.
But Matteson Village Administrator Brian Mitchell said village officials have “worked diligently” with Kohan to try to make repairs. Kohan hired an architectural firm to design a revamped mall, but village officials said they found the plan lacking in details.
Lincoln Mall had four major retailers as its anchors when it opened in 1973: Carson's, J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward and Wieboldt's, a Chicago-area chain. The Wieboldt's store closed in the early 1990s and eventually was replaced with a Sears store. The Ward and Penney stores closed some years ago, and those buildings have been razed. The Sears store closed last year.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected from an earlier version. Katy Broom, a spokeswoman hired by the law firm of Shefsky & Froelich to deal with the lawsuit, said the legal activity was filed at the 6th District Cook County Circuit Courthouse in Markham.