Receiver to take over Lincoln Mall operations
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org August 15, 2013 4:46PM
Updated: September 17, 2013 8:19AM
Lincoln Mall in Matteson and its tenants will be allowed to remain open, a Cook County judge ruled Thursday, but he also appointed a receiver to take over day-to-day operations at the troubled property and to address safety issues that prompted the village to file a lawsuit against the mall owner.
In handing down the ruling, Judge Thomas J. Condon appointed Collateral Trustee of Chicago as receiver. In addition to running the mall and overseeing repairs, the company also will be responsible for collecting rent, some of which will be earmarked to pay for renovations.
Collateral Trustee president John T. Suzuki said his company previously handled the liquidation of assets when the Matteson Circuit City closed, and it oversaw the sale of the building to Solutions Church, which remains at the site.
While an attorney for mall owner Lincoln Mall Holding LLC said the ruling would prompt some of the remaining national retailers to vacate their stores, an attorney for the village hailed the decision as a lifeline.
“We will work with the receiver to address the most life-threatening conditions at the mall and we’ll be working to develop a long-range plan to restore the mall to its glory and greatness as a great regional mall,” said Attorney Joseph Licata, whose firm is representing the village.
Last week, Matteson filed a lawsuit against Lincoln Mall Holding LLC, asking a judge to shut down the property and appoint a receiver to fix such issues as exposed wiring, a crumbling foundation and blocked fire exits, among others.
About half of the 40-year-old mall — which is south of U.S. 30 between Cicero and Kostner avenues — is vacant.
Condon previously gave the company and its owner, Mike Kohan, a week to wire the village $100,000 and to develop an adequate plan to addresses the village’s concerns.
Attorney John Kennedy, representing the village, said that while Kohan paid the money and gave the village a $21,000 check for outstanding water bills, the plan he submitted was inadequate. Kennedy called it a “copy and paste job” of a plan Kohan submitted to the village in November that was rejected.
“There was no detail,” Kennedy said. “There was nothing there. It was just a list of things that do not respond to the conditions that plague Lincoln Mall.”
Attorney Michael Aschenbrener, representing Kohan, said his client fulfilled all of the court’s orders and noted that the plan Lincoln Mall Holding submitted called for $1.3 million worth of renovations.
“That doesn’t happen over the weekend,” Aschenbrener said. “It takes time.”
While detailing his decision, Condon said closing the mall would be the equivalent of giving “the death penalty” to its tenants.
Among the tenants are Carson Pirie Scott, Rogers & Hollands Jewelers, Foot Locker, Bath & Body Works, Lenscrafters and GNC, according to the mall’s website.
Aschenbrener briefly argued that Condon should change his decision, saying that the mall’s remaining national tenants would leave if a receiver is appointed.
Condon, however, said that he can remove the receiver later if need be.
After the hearing Licata said the village will immediately begin creating its own plan to fix the mall’s many safety issues. Construction crews will also punch a hole in a mall wall to create an exit and build a set of fire stairs before the next hearing date, which is set for Aug. 22 at the Markham courthouse.
“We have to be back in front of the judge one week from today to tell him what we’re doing,” Licata said. “I’m not coming back in here next week saying, ‘Judge, we spent the whole week talking about it.’ We’ve got to get it done and get action moving.”
Licata also said Lincoln Mall Holding will be responsible for “100 percent” of the renovation costs.
After the hearing, Aschenbrener reiterated his belief that the appointment of the receiver will cause the mall’s national tenants to leave.
“The village is shooting itself in the foot here,” Aschenbrener said. “It’s a pyrrhic victory. They’ve got a receiver appointed to do something and there will no longer be reason to do it.”
Several mall tenants were also unhappy with the appointment of a receiver.
“Everyone is sitting around with a suitcase because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Ben Peacock, the owner of Tres (3) Circles School of Karate. “You can’t run a business that way.”