Sears to leave Lincoln Mall
By Mike Nolan firstname.lastname@example.org May 15, 2012 9:38PM
The exterior of Lincoln Mall in Matteson is shown in this file photo. A sale of the mall is scheduled for June 1 in Chicago.
Updated: June 17, 2012 8:18AM
Sears, an anchor store at Lincoln Mall for decades, will close next month, a decision prompted by the shopping center’s ongoing foreclosure case.
Sears began a store-closing sale at the Matteson store on Friday, and the store is expected to close by the middle of June, said Kimberly Freely, a spokeswoman for Sears Holdings, the parent company of Sears and Kmart.
It would represent the second major retailer to exit the village in recent weeks. As part of a reorganization, Best Buy recently closed its store near Lincoln Mall.
While Sears has announced the closing of dozens of poor-performing stores around the country, Freely said she did not know whether the Matteson store suffered from lackluster sales. A major factor in the decision to close was the mall’s pending foreclosure, she said.
A court-ordered sale of the property is scheduled for June 1 in Chicago, according to Michelle Panovich, a senior vice president with Mid-America Asset Management, which three years ago was named the mall’s receiver.
Sears was concerned that the mall’s sale could potentially jeopardize the retailer’s ability to “operate independently” at the mall, Freely said.
Credit Union Liquidity Services filed a foreclosure lawsuit against the mall’s owner, Realty America Group, in Cook County Circuit Court in January 2009 to collect on a loan it had made to the company, which planned an extensive renovation of the mall, which opened in 1973.
Realty America countersued Credit Union Liquidity, alleging, among other things, fraud and breach of contract. That suit was later dismissed, but Realty America filed for bankruptcy in Texas, where it is based, just months after the foreclosure lawsuit was filed.
In February, a Cook County judge ordered Realty America to pay $44.4 million, according to a court document. The judge also ordered the sale of Lincoln Mall to satisfy the judgment.
Panovich said she expected several bidders to take part in the June 1 sale of the mall, which would be left with one anchor, Carson Pirie Scott, once Sears leaves.
Freely said the Matteson Sears has 114 employees, who could apply for job openings at other Sears and Kmart stores.
Realty America also sued Matteson officials over a redevelopment agreement it had with the village. Both sides recently settled that lawsuit, but details of the settlement were not immediately available.
Realty America bought Lincoln Mall in 2003, and a new ring road was constructed and freestanding stores for J.C. Penney, a former mall anchor, and Target were built. Part of the redevelopment was to include a multi-screen movie theater.
Realty America secured a loan in late 2004 from Texans Commercial Credit, a commercial lending arm of Texans Credit Union. Texans Commercial Credit later became Credit Union Liquidity Services.