The future of the Mega Mall in Logan Square remains uncertain as Chicago officials continue to exert pressure on its owner to sell the property to the city. City Hall has already taken steps that would eventually lead to a sale under eminent domain, according to John McDermott of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.
The ideas for the site include a grocery store or a park, under the open-space initiative aimed at adding more open space on the West Side.
People who oppose closing the Mega Mall and its more than 70 businesses say the closure would hurt the shopping area’s working-class patrons and employees.
Controversy over the indoor bazaar dates back to 2005 when it was closed after dozens of city code violations were found. The building reopened a few months later after the owner, Kyun Hee Park, brought it back up to code, and passed city inspections.
At first glance, the mall does not appear on the brink of closing. Bright yellow signs on the walls advertise “30 new stores coming soon.”
Vendors also are uncertain about its future. Jinnie So, who sells women’s clothing, said the communication between the owner and vendors has been poor.
“I’m worried about finding another job if this is shut down because of the economy,” she said.
The economy also plays a role in why the building hasn’t yet been sold to developers. “No one else might want the building. Few developers have put together enough financing,” McDermott said.
Lewis Coulson of the Logan Square Preservation said, “What they sell, as long as it’s legal, is up to the vendors or buyers. If people don’t buy the goods, it will inevitably be shut down just because of that.”
A better business model for the mall is under discussion. Vendors are hoping a field trip to Minneapolis to visit the co-op el Mercado, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this month, will yield some fresh ideas, McDermott said.
The Mega Mall debate is part of a larger struggle over the use of tax increment financing in the Milwaukee-Fullerton district. Martha Ramos, chief of staff for Ald. Rey Colon (35th), said the alderman wants TIF funds to stimulate the economy in Logan Square.
Opponents of the city takeover, including the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, say city ownership will drive the independent vendors who rent mall space out of business. McDermott explained that the vendors are mostly working-class immigrants who cannot afford to rent a storefront.