The Dawn of Lincoln Mall: A Retail Landmark Emerges
The Opening Salvo: Lincoln Mall Makes Its Debut
In the heart of Matteson, Illinois, a significant commercial event unfolded in 1973. This was the year when Lincoln Mall first opened its doors, marking a new era in the local retail landscape.
Developed by Randhurst Corp, known for their work on Randhurst Mall and Lakehurst Mall, Lincoln Mall initially boasted a compelling array of anchor stores: Carson Pirie Scott, Montgomery Ward, Wieboldt’s, and JCPenney.
These stores were not just shops; they were the cornerstones of the mall, attracting a diverse crowd and setting the tone for the shopping experience.
A Bustling Hub for Shoppers
From the beginning, Lincoln Mall positioned itself as a central gathering place in Matteson.
Situated conveniently at the intersection of U.S. Route 30 and Cicero Avenue, it became a vibrant community hub where people from all walks of life came to shop, socialize, and explore.
The mall’s wide corridors, diverse store selection, and welcoming atmosphere made it a go-to destination for those looking for things to do in Matteson, Illinois.
It wasn’t just a place to buy goods but a space where memories were made and traditions began.
An Early Setback: Wieboldt’s Closure
Despite its early success, Lincoln Mall faced its first major challenge in 1987 with the closure of Wieboldt’s.
This event was a significant blow to the mall’s retail mix, as Wieboldt’s had been one of the original anchor tenants.
The closure marked the end of an era and signaled the beginning of a series of changes for Lincoln Mall.
However, the mall continued to thrive despite this setback, adapting and evolving to meet its patrons’ changing needs and tastes.
Lincoln Mall in the 1990s: Adapting to a New Retail Era
New Retail Giants Enter the Scene
The 1990s brought significant changes to the area around Lincoln Mall. Big-box retailers like Walmart and Sam’s Club opened their doors across the street in 1991, introducing a new dynamic to the local retail environment.
This shift marked a turning point, as these large stores offered a different shopping experience and began to draw customers away from traditional mall-based shopping.
The opening of Best Buy in 1992 further expanded the retail diversity of the area, though it eventually closed in 2012.
Revamping and Reshaping
In response to these changes, Lincoln Mall underwent a major renovation in 1993, aiming to refresh its appeal and retain its customer base.
This revamp was a strategic move to stay relevant in the evolving retail market. Additionally, 1995 saw Sears opening in the former Wieboldt’s location, bringing a new anchor store to the mall.
However, the departure of Montgomery Ward in 1999 and the subsequent closure of JCPenney in 2000 signaled a challenging period for the mall.
These events led to decreased foot traffic, impacting the mall’s vitality.
A Shifting Retail Landscape
The exit of these key stores marked the beginning of a downward trend for Lincoln Mall. The loss of two major anchors significantly affected the mall’s foot traffic and appeal as a shopping destination.
Many smaller stores began to vacate, reflecting the changing retail landscape and consumer preferences.
This period was a critical juncture for Lincoln Mall, highlighting traditional shopping malls’ challenges in adapting to new retail trends and consumer behaviors.
Anchor Tenants Over Time
|Carson Pirie Scott
|2000 (reopened in 2007)
Revitalization Efforts and Renewed Hopes for Lincoln Mall
Embarking on a Major Redevelopment
In 2006, a bold $115-million redevelopment plan was set in motion for Lincoln Mall, reflecting a determined effort to rejuvenate this once-thriving shopping center—the ambitious project aimed to attract more retailers and revive the mall’s fortunes.
Key elements of this plan included adding a multi-screen cinema and constructing a four-lane road to connect Cicero Avenue and Lincoln Highway.
These developments were envisioned to enhance accessibility and offer new entertainment options, drawing more visitors to the mall.
Welcoming New Stores and Returning Favorites
The redevelopment saw the demolition of older sections of the mall, paving the way for modern facilities.
In a significant move, Target opened a large store in July 2007, built on an outparcel of the mall, bringing a fresh retail option to the area.
Additionally, JCPenney made a comeback in October 2007 with a new store, also on an outparcel. These openings were part of the strategic efforts to revive the mall’s appeal and reinstate it as a key player in the local retail scene.
Challenges Persist Despite Redevelopment
Despite these efforts, the mall’s revitalization faced hurdles. The large-scale redevelopment couldn’t fully counteract the impact of evolving retail trends and changing consumer behaviors.
Although significant, the new additions and improvements were not enough to completely turn around the fortunes of Lincoln Mall.
The 2008 financial crisis and a shift towards online shopping led to Lincoln Mall’s struggle to stay relevant, resulting in decreased foot traffic.
This signaled the upcoming challenges in adapting to the changing retail landscape.
Legal Struggles and Safety Issues Lead to Lincoln Mall’s Closure
The Onset of Legal and Safety Challenges
By 2013, Lincoln Mall was embroiled in serious legal and safety issues. Representatives from Matteson took legal action against the mall’s owners due to multiple safety and building code violations.
These included exposed electrical wiring, a non-functional sprinkler system, blocked fire exits, a deteriorating roof, and a compromised foundation.
These concerns were not just minor issues; they posed significant risks to public safety and highlighted the mall’s deteriorating condition.
Court-Ordered Closure: The End of an Era
The situation escalated in 2014 when Cook County Judge Thomas Condon ordered the mall’s permanent closure effective January 7, 2015.
This decision, however, exempted Carson’s, as its building was owned separately. The mall’s owner had depleted the operating funds, leaving nothing to sustain operations beyond December 2014.
This financial shortfall, along with the inability to afford necessary repairs and maintenance, sealed the fate of Lincoln Mall, marking an end to its once bustling presence in Matteson.
The Final Days and Lingering Hopes
Despite the court order, a sliver of hope remained briefly. The mall would have required extensive renovations to meet safety standards, including replacing several exits and repairing electrical and air conditioning systems.
However, these hopes quickly faded with insufficient funds and dwindling tenant numbers. The closure of Lincoln Mall represented not only the loss of a shopping center but also the end of a community landmark that had served the people of Matteson for decades.
The Final Curtain: Demolition of Lincoln Mall
Lincoln Mall in the Lens of Nostalgia and Decay
In 2016, the abandoned Lincoln Mall captured public attention through a haunting photo series by photographer Seph Lawless.
These images showcased the mall in a state of decay, a stark contrast to its once lively atmosphere.
The empty corridors and deserted stores served as a poignant reminder of the mall’s former glory and the transient nature of commercial landmarks.
Demolition: Erasing a Chapter in Matteson’s History
In a definitive move, a Cook County Circuit Judge ordered the mall’s demolition in February 2017. An agreement on demolition costs between the Village of Matteson and the court-appointed receiver followed this decision.
Demolition began on May 8, 2017, signifying the physical erasure of Lincoln Mall from Matteson’s landscape.
By the end of summer 2017, the structure that once buzzed with shoppers and business was wholly dismantled, marking the end of an era.
The Closure of the Final Stores
In this transition period, the nearby Target store announced its closure in November 2017 as part of a national strategy to close 12 stores.
This closure in February 2018 added to the sense of loss in the community. The once-busy area surrounding Lincoln Mall continued to see the withdrawal of major retailers, reflecting the changing face of retail and the challenges faced by traditional shopping malls.
A New Chapter: The Ongoing Transformation of Lincoln Mall’s Site
The Casino Proposal: A Spark of Renewal
In January 2020, a significant development emerged for the former site of Lincoln Mall. Matteson approved a plan South Suburban Development LLC proposed to establish a casino on the mall’s land.
This decision marked a potential turning point, bringing hope for economic growth and job creation.
The community looked forward to this project as a catalyst for revitalization, signaling a possible new beginning for the area that once housed the bustling Lincoln Mall.
Unfulfilled Hopes and Alternative Strategies
Despite the initial optimism, 2023 brought a setback as Matteson missed out on securing a casino license.
This development halted the anticipated casino project, leading the suburb to explore alternative strategies for economic growth.
The focus shifted towards a mixed-use development project, demonstrating the community’s resilience and adaptability in changing circumstances.
The decision to pursue diverse development opportunities reflected a commitment to revitalizing the area and making the best use of the land that once hosted the Lincoln Mall.
JCPenney’s Uncertain Future and Community Adaptation
Amidst these developments, the last remaining tenant of the mall, JCPenney, faced its challenges. In July 2020, as part of their bankruptcy proceedings, JCPenney announced the sale of 21 stores, including the Lincoln Mall location.
This decision added to the uncertainty surrounding the future of the mall site. As the community continued to adapt to the evolving retail landscape, the story of Lincoln Mall served as a reminder of the impermanence of commercial landmarks and the ongoing need for adaptation and innovation in the face of change.
Reflecting on Lincoln Mall: The Evolution of a Community Landmark
The story of Lincoln Mall in Matteson, IL, mirrors the broader narrative of many American malls: a rise to prominence, struggles against changing retail trends, and an eventual decline.
From its opening in 1973 as a bustling shopping destination to its closure and subsequent demolition, Lincoln Mall’s journey is a testament to the ever-evolving nature of retail and community spaces.
Its history reflects the challenges faced by traditional malls in adapting to new consumer behaviors and economic realities.
As Matteson looks forward to further development projects on the site, Lincoln Mall remains a significant part of the community’s history, a symbol of change and resilience in shifting economic landscapes.