Monday, August 29, 2005

Harvey officials await Dixie Square Mall purchase

By Michael Hirtzer, The Star

Little work has taken place at Dixie Square Mall nearly two months after a developer delayed purchasing the 57-acre site from the city of Harvey, IL.

John Deneen, of Chicago-based Emerald Property Group, said he needed to remove a large amount of asbestos before he could purchase the mall.

There has been no apparent work done at the site, 154th Street and Dixie Highway, about two months after Deneen made those comments during a city council meeting in July.

The mall remains vacant, still surrounded by a security fence, with no visible activity inside.

City spokeswoman Sandra Alvarado said the city still is undergoing a property title search before the city can close on the property with Deneen.

"We're basically waiting on the title," Ald. Daryl Crudup, 3rd Ward, said Friday. "(The developer and his attorneys) needed some additional information."

Deneen did not return a phone message left Thursday at his office. A secretary said Deneen was out of town until Tuesday.

Crudup said work will begin at the mall after the city transfers the property to Deneen.

"I was hoping we could (start) anywhere from a week to a month," Crudup said. "We're looking good for September."

It is unclear how long it will take to remove the asbestos. It also is unclear when crews will demolish the mall.

Deneen has pledged to tear down several of the existing structures and build several new stores. He has said that a handful of major retailers signed onto the project.

Several projects have failed to bring the mall back to its former glory. After being built in the mid-1960s, Dixie Square was one of the first completely indoor malls.

Since the late 1970s, however, the mall has seen several projects fail.

Crudup, who lives in the 3rd Ward that includes Dixie Square, said the area soon will undergo improvements.

"We're moving on all phases of the renovation," he said.

He said several other projects are in the works, including a beautification project at the nearby Cook County building and the construction of senior housing by the YMCA.

Crudup said the county will expand its parking lot as well as improve its fence and the overall look of the landscaping, while YMCA officials will begin construction next month.

American Kitchen Delights, a nearby food service company, also is expanding. However, an effort to move into the former Montgomery Wards building stalled after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a cease and desist order until the removal of all asbestos from the department store site.

Despite all the setbacks, Crudup still said he is optimistic about the area's future.

"We're moving, and that's the key," he said.

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