LITTLE VILLAGE — Vendors from the Little Village Discount Mall have been granted another temporary reprieve in an ongoing battle over their leases, allowing business owners to stay or move back in for up to six more weeks while city officials fix up a former pharmacy as a new home.
Approximately 40 vendors had been given until end of the day Tuesday to move out of the mall, 3115 W. 26th St., after their leases expired and a judge refused an emergency move to prevent them from being locked out. Several vendors had moved out or were in the process of doing so by the end of the weekend.
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But city officials were able to negotiate another six-week extension with owner Novak Construction, Samir Mayekar, deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development, told Block Club on Tuesday.
With this newest extension, any vendors who have already moved out can return, Mayekar said.
In the meantime, the city is fixing up a former CVS at 2634 S. Pulaski Road where any vendor can relocate after the six weeks, Mayekar said. The pharmacy closed in June as part of a nationwide trend, and it has been vacant since.
Mayekar said the former CVS space will be able to accommodate everyone. Some have already found new storefronts or are moving to the other side of the Discount Mall.
The city will provide funding to prepare the building for vendors, but the exact amount of money that’s needed isn’t clear yet, Mayekar said.
CVS still has an active lease on the building, Mayekar said. The company will sublease the space to the vendors who want to move in and to the Little Village Chamber of Commerce, which will oversee the transition to the new vendor market and coordinate management, Mayekar and Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Aguilar said.
The sub-lease would ideally last through 2023, in order to give vendor leadership and city officials enough time to find a permanent solution, Mayekar said. It could take months to buy and fully redevelop a long-term site, he said.
Little Village Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22nd), whose ward includes the former CVS, said he’s on board with the city’s plan
“The site right now is deteriorating and not productive, and the opportunity for small, immigrant business owners to move in and bring in vitality … I would be ecstatic to bring these folks into my ward,” he told Block Club.
Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), whose ward includes the Discount Mall, previously said the city and management at Pilsen Plaza Corporation were exploring options to relocate the vendors. Potential sites included two CVS stores at West 26th Street and South Pulaski Road and West 51st Street and South Kedzie Avenue in Gage Park.
Sigcho-Lopez said he thinks the former CVS at 26th and Pulaski is a viable option, but it’s ultimately up to vendors on whether they want to take up the city’s offer. He said the concern he’s heard from some is the reduction in space.
Officials with Novak Construction, which owns the mall, declined to comment beyond the city’s statements.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration is committed to assisting vendors with the transition and ensuring the cultural identity of “one of the most thriving commercial districts in our city” remains intact, Mayekar said.
“The Discount Mall is a storied institution with a legacy built by immigrant entrepreneurs who provide a vital cultural touch point to people from all over the Midwest,” a mayoral spokesperson said. “Their contributions have helped maintain Little Village as one of Chicago’s most thriving commercial districts while preserving the neighborhood’s cultural identity.
“We stand with the vendors of Discount Mall and will continue to work with stakeholders to develop a path forward that empowers vendors who are so vital to the Little Village community. “
Vendors have been fighting for months for owner Novak Construction to reach an agreement to keep all business owners inside the Discount Mall.
Novak announced in February a deal had been finalized with about half of the vendors to keep them working at the Discount Mall.
However, the nearly 40 vendors who work in the south half of the building were told they had until the end of March to move out because the mall operator who managed that side couldn’t reach an agreement with Novak on a new lease.
Mall operator PK Mall told vendors the contract they would’ve had to agree to with Novak was “unreasonable” and “unsustainable in the long run.”
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