The Discount Mall in Little Village along 26th Street on March 29, 2021. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

LITTLE VILLAGE — Neighbors are still pushing for answers from developers on the future of the beloved Discount Mall as vendor contracts will expire at the end of the month.

Plans surrounding the Discount Mall and the shopping plaza at 3045-3117 W. 26th St. have been unclear for years. The property was sold to Novak Construction in February 2020 for $17.5 million, the Sun-Times reported. At the time, Novak’s president suggested the mall might not be the best use of the land and alluded to bringing chain stores to the area.

In August, contracts for vendors at the mall were about to expire and vendors said they still hadn’t received information about the owner’s plans. After the alderperson’s office intervened, Novak Construction extended the vendors’ contracts through the end of January.

Vendors were supposed to have met with developers since the August extension, but that meeting still hasn’t happened, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) and business owners said. They’re continuing to pressure Novak, they said.

A spokesperson for Novak didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.

Irais Miranda has sold musical instruments and speakers at the Discount Mall for 35 years. Planning for the future of his business among so much uncertainty has been difficult, he said.

“We have the uncertainty that we don’t have a firm contract where we say this is long term and we’re investing our time in our job as something secure,” he said in Spanish.

Miranda said there are good changes the developers could make, like remodeling certain parts of the mall, but he just wishes the vendors could be let in on the decisions.

“It could be good to expand the market to [other people] who want to see something of Mexico but with conditions a bit more presentable,” he said.

Dresses, cowboy hats and leather attire for sale at the Discount Mall in Little Village on Aug. 19, 2022. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

Kocoy Malagon, who has run a shop selling women’s clothes at the mall for 12 years, said the mall is part of what makes Little Village such a vibrant community, full of families who depend on the jobs of these business owners.

“We generate an enormous about of money,” she said. “We are a tourist corridor. Our people come from neighboring states — Wisconsin, Kentucky, including New York and Florida. And when they come to this Mexican neighborhood, they feel and they identify with the Hispanic community that we are.

“We aren’t asking [Novak] for anything to be given away. We simply want to be included in this progress. We’ve been asking, ‘Why are we not included in this progress?'”

Elisa is a Little Village native whose parents have owned stalls at the Discount Mall for 20 years. She said she practically grew up there, helping her parents with the shops selling “anything soccer” and men’s clothing. It’s been awful watching family worry about the future of their businesses, she said.

“This is uprooting everything that we’ve done for 20 years,” she said. “It’s stressful because this is their whole life. People come from all over just to come to the mall. It should be preserved just like” the Little Village arches.

Sigcho-Lopez said he’s hopeful Novak accepts the invitation to speak with local officials and the vendors before the end of the month.

“We are very clear that the one option not on the table is closing the Discount Mall,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “What we are asking Novak Construction is to sit down and discuss the alternatives we have at the table.”

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