Matteson wants to shut Lincoln Mall
By Casey Toner firstname.lastname@example.org August 7, 2013 7:36AM
The entrance to the Lincoln Mall in Matteson. | File Photo
Fire code violations
found at Lincoln Mall
Outdated fire alarm system.
Certification needed for fire alarm and fire alarm systems.
Not all fire rated doors self-closed as required.
Sections of the mall did not have an adequate sprinkler system.
The required building addresses were not visible in front of all buildings as required.
Not all fire lanes were properly maintained.
Updated: September 9, 2013 2:40PM
Matteson is suing the owner of Lincoln Mall and asking a judge to shut down the shopping center immediately, claiming its employees and shoppers are endangered by exposed wiring, a crumbling mall foundation and a fire exit leading to a padlocked door, among other issues.
“This ranks as one of the more concerning facilities I’ve ever inspected,” senior building inspector Bill Gleason said. “We think this is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Filed in Cook County Circuit Court on Wednesday, the lawsuit marks the latest development for the troubled 256,000-square-foot retail center, formerly one of the Southland’s most popular shopping destinations.
The lawsuit also asks the judge to appoint a receiver for the property to help restore the property and fine the company that owns the indoor mall, New York-based Lincoln Mall Holding LCC. Led by investor Michael Kohan, the company took over the property in June 2012.
Village officials hoped the judge would close the mall within the week. Judge Thomas J. Condon is scheduled to hear the case at 2 p.m. Thursday at the courthouse in Markham.
Reached by phone, Kohan said the lawsuit was of “no benefit to anyone.” He did, however, acknowledge the building’s safety problems and said he needed time to fix them.
“They didn’t come out in a matter of a year or two,” said Kohan, estimating the fixes might cost upward of $700,000. “It’s years of issues that have been there, and now they are pressing me to do this.”
According to the lawsuit, Lincoln Mall Holding LLC bought the mall in June 2012 for $150,000 and back taxes. Realty America, which bought the property in 2003, was ordered as part of a foreclosure settlement in February 2012 to sell the mall and pay $44.4 million to its creditors. The village also fined Realty America more than $9 million in fire and building code violations.
A little more than two months after Kohan’s company bought the property, the village inspected the mall again, the lawsuit said. This time, village fire inspectors noted 27 violations. Among other items, the inspectors noted that not all the buildings had visible addresses, portions of the building lacked sprinkler coverage and the fire alarm system needed to be upgraded.
Matteson fire inspector Sam Anello said that a fire exit door was padlocked shut and a fire exit hallway inside the mall leads to a wall with no door.
“We’re not comfortable with the mall operating any longer,” Anello said. “People being in the mall is unsafe in our opinion.”
In a separate visit that month, village building inspectors noted 24 violations, the lawsuit said. Among other problems, they found that the mall’s exposed foundation was eroding, there is exposed wiring in the mall, the walkways are unsafe for pedestrians, paint is peeling in and outside of the building and the east entrance was never completed.
The lawsuit said village officials told Kohan he needed to fix the problems immediately so he hired V3 Companies and JTS Architects in November 2012 to develop a plan. One month later, the village rejected Kohan’s plan, saying it was too vague.
The village gave Kohan an ultimatum in July, offering to defer the filing of the lawsuit by one week if he agreed to immediately begin work with his architect and contractor to prepare a construction plan to fix the outstanding fire and building code violations, the suit said.
As a measure of good faith, Kohan was required to wire the village $100,000 to show the village his plan would be adequate, according to the lawsuit. Kohan agreed but later told the village through his attorney that he would not pay the money.
Village attorney Brian Mitchell said the outstanding problems in the mall combined with Kohan’s indifference to them led the village to file the lawsuit.
“We want this mall to be safe, we want this mall to be open, and we want it to provide the experiences that residents want to have, that visitors want to have,” Mitchell said. “Most of all we want to get the mall back to where we all know it used to be many years ago.”