Dixie Square Mall History

To-date, the colloquially-titled “Paw Filmworks timeline” remains the most comprehensive history of Dixie Square Mall ever published; and was originally written for, and hosted on the website for Paul McVay’s “DIXIE SQUARE” documentary film. Following that website’s shutdown in early-2009: I was fortunate to get Paul’s blessings to continue hosting it at my defunct DSM website: “Ghost Mall”, and now here.
Please respect his copyright…

The following history database for the Dixie Square shopping mall was constructed over the course of four years with the help of hundreds of dedicated individuals. This current form of the DB spans 1961-2006. Future updates will be made.
If you would like to include this information on your website please contact the website admin with your request.
This page, which is part of a larger site, is copyrighted.
(DB Update 6/23/06)

Developer Meyer C. Weiner begins negotiations with the City of Harvey, Illinois to acquire 60 acres of land. Weiner & Partners desire the land to build a state-of-the-art indoor shopping mall.

January 1964:
After three years of negotiations, Weiner gets his wish and purchases 60 acres of land in Harvey for his project. It is at this time that Dixie Square Shopping Center, Inc. takes possession of the land. Initial published figures at this time indicate the structure will cost $12 Million to build.

Interesting to note: The final plans for the build include preserving several trees present on the golf course.  This was actually done and when the mall opened much mention was made of the parking lot area in the news papers.  Described as a “Pleasant” & “Garden Like” by The Chicago Tribune, an entire paragraph was devoted to describing the parking area in a August 1966 article.

March 26, 1964:
It is announced to the press that the Harvey City Council will approve the re-zoning of property in Harvey to allow the building of the shopping mall.  “Dixie Hi”, a 9 hole golf course which had fallen into disrepair, is chosen as the perfect site because of easy access to the highway system and because it is centrally located in Harvey.   Surveys conducted by Meyer Weiner and Montgomery Wards Inc. are the key factors in placing this project in Harvey and at the golf course site.

The City Council also votes to annex the property. Approx 60 acres of land are annexed into the corporate limits of the community.

As part of the planning process, Dixie Square is to be open to the public “after hours”.  It is never revealed what additional hours of operation were to be put in place, but initially the mall was to be open to “browsers”- after security gates were down and stores closed- so the general public could view store displays, and stores themselves, fully illuminated.  This was described as “After-Hours Window Shopping in Air-Conditioned Comfort”. There is no solid information that this was ever put into action.

November 19, 1964:
Walgreens signs a lease, literally described as “Long Time” (not “Long Term”), for a spot at Dixie Square.

Early 1965:
Meyer C. Weiner (Developer of Dixie Square) & Richard Daly (Chicago Metropolitan District Mgr. Of Montgomery Wards Store) break ground for the Wards store.

Spring 1965:
Montgomery Wards opens to the public.


Construction In 1965:
Architects: Hornbach & Steenwyk (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
All Construction Work: Inland Construction Inc.
Building Permit Issued September 22,1965 -Permit #1355- Permit Cost: $1,503.00
Cost For Construction Listed: $1,467,918
[Note: 24 hours later the cost changes drastically]

Inland Construction Cost Break Down:

Phase I:     $2,008,027.00
Phase II:    $2,292,557.00
Phase III Tenant Interiors:
“Block A”-  $524,193.00
“Block B”-  $395,838.00
“Block C”-  $717,695.00
“JC Penney & TBA”-  $1,585,486.00
Contingencies:- $96,696.00
Interior Partitions:- $15,936.00

Total Cost: $7,636,428.00
[Note: The original notarized document was signed by Meyer C. Weiner & Martin H. Brauhn on September 23, 1965.]

Incorporation Principals:
Meyer C. Weiner, Tobert E. Fryling , Abner Mesirow & Martin H. Brauhn
Total Building Area: 780,567 feet
Total Rental Area: 700,467 feet
Total Enclosed Mall Area: 71,100 feet
[Note: Rental, Building & Enclosed Mall areas reflect the 1970 square footage of Dixie Square.]


Glass Service Inc. (East Chicago,IN)-
Provides all the aluminum and plate glass installations. Unique only to Dixie Square at the time was the installation of black glass in extremely sunny locations to reduce glare and heat in the summer.

Johnson-Meier Co. (Chicago,IL.)-
Provides ornamental ironwork throughout Montgomery Wards.

Titan Ornamental (Chicago,IL)-
Provides ornamental work for JC Penney as well as the rest of Dixie Square.

Fettes,Love & Sieben (Chicago,IL)-
Provides plumbing facilities to the 60 merchants at Dixie Square.
One of the more unusual tasks taken on by the company was the installation of 3 fountain pools within the mall.  Special pumps were installed for water circulation and the fountain displays.

Trans-Plastics (Chicago,IL)-
Provides all of the faux plants inside the mall.  Polyethylene plastics imported from France, Germany & Japan are used to create the foliage. Stig Brodin, architect and horticulturist from Sweden, plans the tropical displays to exactly match their natural habitats.  The use of fake plants inside Dixie Square is decided upon because of the difficulty of maintaining live plants inside the enclosed mall.

Ravenswood Tile (Skokie,IL)-
Provides all of the decorative & standard tile throughout Dixie Square.
Ravenswood Tile was responsible for the tile work done in the original Palmer House in the 1920’s.

Edward Hines Lumber Co. (Chicago,IL)-
Provides all of the lumber, plywood & finished paneling to the mall.

Reliable Sheet Metal Works Inc. (Chicago,IL)-
Provides all sheet metal, ventilation and air conditioning systems for Dixie Square.

Triangle Sign Co./Luminous Sign Company (Chicago,IL)-
Provides the 60 foot tall Dixie Square sign that greets visitors at the main entrance to the parking lot.  The sign is so huge it can be seen from the Illinois Tollway & the Calumet Expressway.  The sign is illuminated by fluorescent lighting and is maintained by Alvin Linstrand; employee of Triangle Sign.

Engler-Meier-Justus (Oak Lawn,IL)-
Provides suspended ceilings & drywall for the mall.

S.G. Hayes & Co. (Harvey,IL)-
Provides the asphalt that comprises the 4,200 space parking lot of Dixie Square.  The lot is designed so that not one allotted space is more than a short walk to an entrance of the mall.

M. Ecker & Co. (Chicago,IL)-
Provides the mall’s interior decor.  At the time, the company was the largest employer of Journeymen Painters in the Chicago area.

Schuham Hardware (Chicago,IL)-
Provides every single door lock, hinge and doorknob inside the entire mall.

Olson Co. (Chicago,IL)-
Provides the roof that covers more than 628,000 feet of enclosed mall space. A unique feature of the roof installation is the use of a new type of zinc alloy called Hydro-T.  Hydro-T weathers to a fine slate grey and never requires painting.

May 19, 1965:
Joseph Giovegno, of Frankfort, returns to his car after shopping at Montgomery Wards to find a newborn infant girl has been placed on his front seat.  Giovegno rushes the 7 pound infant to the South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest.  The Infant is not harmed and Harvey Police seek out the Mother.

August 31, 1966:
A Presentation Opening takes place.  A huge mall-wide sale is in effect until Sept. 3. At this time 36 stores are open for business. Singer Mel Torme officiates the opening. Several other guests, which are not present at the Grand Opening are featured.  The automobile “The Leslie Special” from the movie “The Great Race” is on display courtesy of WCFL radio.  Construction is still underway at this time.  This kind of Presentation Opening, commonly referred to today as a “soft opening”, was done to get the word out about the mall.

September-October 1966:
Construction is completed.  Grand Opening celebrations set for Nov. 10-11-& 12th 1966.

November 9,1966 (Wed.):
A full day before the Grand Opening celebrations, the mall is dedicated by the Mayor of Harvey, Dixie Mall President Meyer C. Weiner and mall Manager Orlando Segneri.  A 75 year time capsule is installed at the entrance to the Montgomery Ward Court (15201 Dixie Highway).

November 10 (Thurs.), 11 (Fri.) & 12 (Sat.):
Dixie Square’s Grand Opening kicks off.

The following stores are open for business:

Baskin Robbins, Carousel Hosiery, Claire’s Hat Shop, David’s Shoes, Dixie Optical Company, Famous Beauty Salon, Fannie May Candy, Ginn’s Tie Shop, Hallmark Cards, Hardy Shoes, Harvest House Restaurant, Dr. D. Ozberg O.D., Hickory Farms, Karroll’s Mens Wear, Le Petit Cafe, Lilyan Ladies Apparel, Mother Maternity Fashions, Neumode Hosiery Shop, Patio Popcorn, Robin Hood Shoes, Singer Sewing Center, Stuart’s Woman’s Wear, Tedd’s Ladies Sportsware, Wurlitzer, The Bombay Shop, Gina’s, Kinney Family Shoes, Model Mother, Richman Brothers, Whitney’s, Woolworth, Dixie Shoe Repair, Lehner’s Barber Shop, Mary Lester Fabrics, Rogers Jewelers, Armand’s Restaurant, Burt’s Shoes, Cocktail Lounge, Dixie Music Store, Howard’s Family Apparel, Jewel Food Store, Jody’s Cotton Shop, Robert Meyer Corporation, Walgreen Drugs & Liquors, Watland Camera, Montgomery Ward & JC Penney.

A US Post office is also located in the North parking. JC Penney’s Auto Service is located North of 152nd st., and Montgomery Wards Auto Service is just North of 154th st.

Parking for 4,200 automobiles is available.

Mall Hours in 1966 were:
Mon-Fri 9:30am-9:30pm
Sat 9:30am-5:30pm.
Sun: Mall Is Open (Hours Left Up To Tenants)

Some of the events during the 3-day grand opening were as follows:

Dixie Mall President Meyer Weiner gives away a week for two vacation to Pine Point Resort in Elkhart Lake, WI.

Illinois Bell Telephone & Northern Illinois Gas have huge displays on hand providing info on what these two utilities “can do for you!”.

Walgreen’s gave away a color television.

Homer & Jethro gave a free concert to customers at 9:15pm in the Dixie Court on Nov. 10th.

Uncle Ned Locke from “Bozo’s Circus” entertained the kiddies from 1-4pm on Nov. 12th.

February 2, 1967:
The United States Postal Service opens one of it’s brand new Postal Stations that never close at Dixie Square.

February 26, 1967:
Greenbaum Mortgage Co. announces it has placed a $8,280,000 mortgage with a group of seven insurance companies for Dixie Square Mall.  The group collectively is known as WILCO.

August 10, 1967:
The Village of Park Forest puts the blame on it’s 20 percent decline in retail sales on Dixie Square & River Oaks.  Park Forest Plaza, the town’s main shopping district, sees customers drawn away by the two new shopping centers.  Prior to Dixie Square & River Oaks being built, Park Forest Plaza drew customers from both areas.  Park Forest entertains raising the City Sticker fee to $2.50 to help make up for a loss of some $40,000 in the first quarter of 1967.

October 5, 6 & 7 1967:
The first in what is now known as “Dixie Square Coupon Promos”.  For 3 big days shoppers could take advantage of tremendous savings by clipping coupons out of local papers and cashing in.  A common promotional tool even today, Dixie Square seemed to have trouble with it from the start.  The advertisement for this event includes a coupon for a store that wouldn’t open for 3 more months (Panel City) and Penneys & Polk Bros. both offered outstanding deals on 45rpm records.  Penneys had them for 77 cents and Polk Bros. for 49 cents.  Promos such as these generally benefit all shop-keepers at a mall, offering non competitive items to draw “all” customers in.  Dixie Square had not yet mastered this device, and never did, as they unfortunately offered several more like it over the next 11 years.

October 1967:
After a hugely successful first year, with revenue exceeding 40 million dollars, President Meyer C. Weiner announces the addition of a 3rd department store anchor to Dixie Square. This is the first mention of what would become TurnStyle. Provisions are also made and announced at this time to include a movie theater and multistory office structure at Dixie Square. Neither of them are ever built.

November 2, 1967 (Thurs.):
For 10 days Dixie Square celebrates it’s first anniversary.  A series of local concerts performed by local musicians takes place every night. A Wurlitzer concert takes place on November 7th in the Penneys court that draws such a huge crowd,music lovers are seated as far back as “La Petite Cafe”… hundreds of feet from where the actual music is being played.

A 1968 Buick Skylark (provided by Bauer Buick) is given away, and Bozo The Clown himself is on hand to entertain the kids on Saturday November 11th at 1pm. Bozo, a huge hit with Chicagoland kids, gives out autographed photos for what has been documented as 5 hours straight….4 hours beyond his scheduled visit to the mall. Dixie Square also stepped it up a notch on the vacation give-away for the first anniversary.  A  6-day trip for two to Miami, Florida was collected by some lucky customer.

Summer 1968:
A scheduled visit by Hockey great Bobby Hull draws such a huge crowd mall security is overwhelmed. The polite fans wait their turn for autographs as Hull himself stands up and announces..” If I have to stay here all night I’m gonna’ sign every autograph”.  According to personal accounts, Mr. Hull made good on his promise.

September 21, 1968:
68 year old Ethel Rothman, of Harvey, is killed by a hit & run driver in the parking lot of Dixie Square. Mrs. Rothman had just parked her car, opened the door, and stepped outside when another car hit her dead on.  Harvey Police later found the vehicle abandoned.  Nobody was ever charged for death of Ethel Rothman.

WILCO expands Dixie Square by more than 100,000 square feet when construction begins on Turn Style.  Turn Style is completed and opens in 1970.  This brings Dixie Square to over 800,000 square feet of enclosed mall.

April 22, 1969:
Using a helicopter, the Illinois State’s Attorney Police arrest two men in the parking lot of Dixie Square.  The charges are selling pornography.  The two men arranged the sale of 120 rolls of film containing pornographic material filmed somewhere in New York City.  The two had been under surveillance for some time when they arranged a meeting to sell the film to an undercover vice cop. As they sat in their car at Dixie Square, swarms of police descended on them in autos, on foot and in a helicopter borrowed from the State Police.

February, 1971:
The heated race for Mayor of Harvey pits James A. Haines, elected in 1967, against newcomer Leona Cunningham Meade. Meade, Mayor Haines only opponent, makes the fact that the West 154th Business District has lost most of it’s customers to Dixie Square her main campaign focus. Meade and Mayor Haines both agree on that topic, Dixie Square has decimated downtown Harvey. While Meade is giving interviews for local news papers, Mayor Haines flys off to Washington DC and acquires the first round of Federal Community Development Funds.  Mayor Haines defeats Meade without problems.  Mayor Haines retains his position until 1983, the same year those Federal Funds run out.  Harvey will see no more Federal Funds of this kind after 1983.  It is unclear what the funds where ever used for.

November 15, 1972:
Ruth Erwin, 27, is fatally shot with a high calibre bullet in a botched robbery attempt. Erwin was on her way to Dixie Square when 4 male youths approached her car at 148th & Robey.  After one male attempted to reach through the window another shot through the windshield of the car hitting her in the neck.  Erwin died shortly after the incident at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey.  The 4 youths were caught and convicted.

April 20, 1973:
William Goodwin, a 28 year old Engineer with ComEd, is fatally shot during a robbery. Goodwin’s body is found next to his pickup truck on the East side of the mall.  Goodwin’s wallet is missing.  The only witnesses to the murder are several small children whom the Harvey Police describe as “unreliable”.

July 16, 1973:
13 year old Kim Harwell, of Kankakee, visiting friends in Harvey, visits Dixie Square to shop for a swimsuit.  The young girl is lured away from the mall by 3 teenage girls (ages 13-14-and 15), tortured, strangled to death, and left lying in a closet in a one story building at 15329 S. Hoyne Ave.  Harvey Police grow frustrated while interviewing the 3 girls as they offer no explanation as to why they murdered Kim.

November 7, 1973:
Harvey Police field several calls from concerned citizens as several UFO’s are spotted in the sky over Dixie Square Mall. For 40 minutes the unidentified flying objects are spotted over Hazel Crest & Homewood and eventually hovering right over Dixie Square.

May 5, 1974:
World Famous Flagpole Sitter Richard Blandy falls 50 feet to his death at Dixie Square. Blandy was just minutes away from ending his 3 day long perch atop his customized flag pole in the parking lot of the mall.  In 1965, Blandy set a world record by staying up 60 feet in the air for 78 days in Stockholm, Sweden.

June 19, 1974:
Senator Adlai Stevenson, on the invite of the City Of Harvey, tours the Dixie Highway business district (including Dixie Square).  The hope is that Sen. Stevenson can help acquire Federal funding to improve the highway and sidewalks which would help revitalize Harvey’s business district. Stevenson, accompanied by Illinois Gov. Walker, take the tour but no additional funds are made available for such a project for many,many more years.

January 1978:
At the start of the year Dixie Square Mall had only 20 tenants.

After eight short years at Dixie square, with one of the largest stores in the entire chain, Turn Style goes out of business.  This is not due to Dixie Square’s woes but rather a Corporate decision from Jewel/Osco.  Jewel/Osco closes all of it’s Turn Style locations.  They are inhabited by, rather quickly, Venture Stores.  All that is, except the Dixie Square store.

*Editor’s note: court documents in a lawsuit filed by Block D tenants reveal that Turn-Style’s tenure at Dixie Square was even shorter than this – having vacated in January 1974. In fact: Block D was largely empty by the end of that year, and the plaintiffs in that litigation were those who remained.

January 25, 1978:
JC Penney closes it’s Dixie Square store.  “Sharply declining sales and profits” is the reason given by R.C. Sherwood; Penney’s Area Manager.  Dixie Square Penney’s 150 employees are offered positions at other area malls.  Penney’s only holds out this long because they are waiting for their brand new store at Orland Square to be completed.

A full year later in January 1979, Penney’s holds a “Dixie’s Last Gasp” (the actual wording in the advertisements) sale where outdated merchandise, mannequins and display cases are offered for sale to the public.

November 1978:
The main mall finally shutters it’s doors after 12 years in operation. A high crime rate in the area along with newer shopping centers in safer areas is the reason given for the closure.  After spending an astounding 1 million dollars on mall security during the period from 1976-1978, management can no longer provide safety to it’s customers nor theft protection to it’s tenants. They file for bankruptcy protection.

November 23, 1978:
The Illinois Retail Merchants Association, providing facts for an article in The Chicago Tribune on wide spread theft at several shopping malls, states that in 1977 alone $130,000,000 worth of merchandise from Chicago area shopping malls had been shoplifted or stolen by employees.  The IRMA also states that “Dixie Square had to close down because of these losses- there was no way they could make it up”.

January 1979:
Dixie Square is given to Harvey-Dixmoor School District 147.  The main crux of this land donation is that the School District pay the estimated $800,000 in back taxes and mortage payments due on the property. The School District uses Dixie Square as a temporary school for two years while a new school building is being built.  The Turn Style department store is used as a gymnasium during this time.

Walgreens & Jewel still operate their stores at Dixie Square (both had outside entrances). By the Spring of 1979, both close up shop.

July 23, 1979:
Universal Pictures leases the mall for Director John Landis’ “The Blues Brothers”.  The mall is refurbished only to the point of what will be on camera.  Deals with stores, many of which never existed at Dixie Square (example: “Toys R Us”),are reached to give the look of an active shopping mall.  Some residents believe, due to a rumor, that the mall is to be re-opened right after the filming.  The source of this rumor is never pinpointed, but there was never any deal with Universal Pictures, Director John Landis or anyone else involved with filming the movie to provide any funds to open the mall.  It was simply used as a movie set.  Nothing more.

June 22, 1980:
“The Blues Brothers” opens to average reviews but is an instant hit with the audiences, taking in well over $4 million dollars opening weekend.  It will go on to gross $57,229,890 in the United States alone.  It was followed by a sequel released in 1998.

December 17, 1981:
Although no deal was ever made to re-open Dixie Square, a deal was made between School District 147 & Universal Studios to “return the mall to it’s original condition after filming”.  The School District files a lawsuit in Federal Court seeking more than $87,000 in damages from Universal, sighting among other things, that “ceiling tiles, door locks, windows & lighting fixtures were damaged and never replaced”.

Good Friday, 1982:
Several Church groups, comprising about 75 people in total, take the message of the lord to the streets of Harvey. Stopping at Dixie Square, the spokesman for the group said  “We cry out against the disinvestment in this community and the resulting desolation it leaves in our economy and spirit”.

At the final stop of the Good Friday tour, the group descended on The First State Bank Of Harvey. Richard Taylor, chairman of the housing committee of the Harvey Human Action Community Organization, prayed that bankers could come up with creative financing arrangements to prevent foreclosures on homes of people that have lost their jobs.

December 9, 1982:
Former Harvey Mayor (1963-1967) Elmer C. Turngren passes away at the age of 70. Turngren had been essential in bringing Dixie Square to Harvey. When he left office in 1967 he was presented with an oil painting depicting what had been accomplished during his term. The painting included the Harvey Municipal Center, the Water Tower & Dixie Square Shopping Center. Turngren’s Father, Arthur, had served as mayor of Harvey from 1943-1959. “It was something he was very, very proud of following his Father in doing” Turngren’s wife was quoted as saying.

November 25, 1983:
Harvey Mayor David Johnson holds on to hope that a handful of developers, who have all provided colorful drawings along with land use proposals, will revitalize Dixie Square.  All of these “Developers” either are yanking the chain of the City Of Harvey or have good intentions but lack the money it would take to execute their plans.  Thousands of dollars in Federal Community Development funds have been used on courting Developers by this time, so much so, that by 1983 Harvey has depleted it’s share.  The Feds will no longer supply money for the development of the property.  Optimistic in a news paper interview, Mayor Johnson says of the possible re-development of Dixie Square “We could increase our tax base which would take the burden off of homeowners and also bring jobs to the community”.  This same statement would be made by the men who would succeed Mayor Johnson over the next 20 years.

1984 – 1985:
In 1984, teenage vandals break into the mall and destroy every last pane of glass within it. Up until this time, the mall resembles what it looked like when the “Blues Brothers” film production left.

Dixie Square’s lone caretaker, Jack Barton (employed by The City Of Harvey to clean out years of garbage that was dumped there by Harvey residents) looks after the mall. He occasionally provides tours to developers and news paper columnists but tends to focus mostly on ridding the building of it’s garbage. By 1985, every last piece of metal worth anything has been stripped from the mall. Even the copper fittings for the mall’s fire hoses had been stolen.

July 1993:
Raymond Eaves lures Denise Shelby into the JC Penney store.  There he rapes and
murders the woman.  Just 3 months prior, Eaves had been arrested and charged for raping another woman in Harvey and before that, had lured a mentally disabled girl to Dixie Square where she was then raped as well.  During his 1997 trial, prosecutors described the ordeal and recounted how it took Eaves 4 minutes to strangle Shelby to death. 39 year old Raymond Eaves was sentenced to life in prison on October 17, 1997.

March 18, 2000:
Throwing his support behind Presidential candidate Al Gore, Congressman Jesse
Jackson Jr. organizes a march from Dixie Square to Homewood-Flossmoor High School in hopes of drawing attention to the need for a 3rd airport in the Chicagoland area. Jackson hopes to revitalize Dixie Square, and Harvey itself, by backing a 3rd airport in the area. The 3rd airport has been the center of heated debate in the City of Chicago and the state of Illinois for over 20 years.

November 10, 2002:
An announcement is made that the former JC Penney store will be leased by the state to house offices for 5 state agencies.  The plan also includes the demolition of the rest of Dixie Square.  The state backs out of the deal in the end.

April 14, 2004:
Former Harvey Mayor David Johnson, along with Diversified Regional Development Group,Inc., expects to be given the property during a special meeting of the City Council.  DRDG plans to use the land for housing, retail space and Govt. offices.  DRDG is the same development group involved in the ill-fated 90’s proposal to turn the site into a “Transportation Hub”.  DRDG needs City Council approval to take possession of the land before they secure financing. They get the approval, but never get the financing.  Johnson, who obtained $325,000 for Harvey to conduct a “study” on the “Transportation Hub”, lost the Mayoral race in 1995 and has since pitched several plans for the land use.  None of them ever panned out. The “Transportation Hub” idea is listed, using this exact description, on the Transportation Research Board website:

Abstract: This project will provide funding to finance a study of the feasibility of integrating transit with commuter rail for the City of Harvey through the development of an intermodal Regional Transportation Activity Center at the Dixie Square Mall.

The project addresses policy directives as dictated by ISTEA and the Federal Transit Act.
Contract/Grant Number: FTA-IL-26-7005
Total Dollars: $325,000
Source Organization: Federal Transit Administration

August 2004:
The Harvey City Council approves a special land use permit to allow for the construction of two senior housing complexes to be built in the parking lot of JC Penney.  The YMCA is given the property by the City to construct 2 buildings with 60 living units each.  The estimated cost for each building is $7.5 million.  The YMCA announces they will break ground on building #1 in October 2004. As of June 2006, no ground has been broken nor any construction started on this project.

January 2005:
American Kitchen Delights pays $100,000 to the City Of Harvey for ownership of the former Montgomery Wards store.  AKD plans to use the space as a warehouse for storing equipment.  Days after taking ownership of the store, work crews begin gutting the inside of Wards. Huge piles of debris are pushed inside the main entrance of the mall, on to the roof of Wards and into the parking lot just outside the store. AKD operates out of Harvey, IL. and makes meals for airlines. One year earlier, AKD recalled some 5,190 pounds of beef brisket contaminated with Listeria.  The infected product was all shipped to Arizona.

January 30, 2005:
Gathering at the South Suburban YMCA, Harvey officials and Congressman Jesse
Jackson Jr., celebrate the deal for the senior housing center and name the buildings “The Jesse L. Jackson Jr. Senior Center”.  Mayor Eric Kellogg praises Jackson as a “lawmaker who constantly fights for legislation to improve the lives of his constituents”. Kellogg also announces he plans to propose to the City Council a motion to name a stretch of road after the congressman, and another after his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

April 2005:
John Deneen, developer, announces plans for a $74 million dollar redevelopment of Dixie Square Mall. Deneen is quoted as saying “the project could generate 1,500 new jobs for the citizens of Harvey”.  Deneen also mentions that 800 construction jobs will be created to build the new complex and several top-tier stores such as–Costco, Kohl’s and Old Navy– have already expressed interest in building stores at the location.

April 21, 2005:
Over 100 Harvey citizens turn out hoping to secure work tied to the redevelopment of Dixie Square during the launch of Mayor Kellogg’s new Office Of Employment.   The excitement of $74 million being spent on the property draws those ready to work at any job that will be available.

May 2005:
With redevelopment of Dixie Square on the fast-track, fencing is erected around most of the property. Less than 2 months later, most of it has been driven over or ripped down.

June 7, 2005:
Acting on a tip from a concerned citizen, the Illinois EPA investigates the site for illegal dumping of construction debris. GM Demolition of Thornton is identified as having dumped more than 20 cubic yards of construction debris at the mall.

“Construction demolition debris” is a term used by the EPA to define asphalt, concrete and other building materials. At this time it is believed that none of the debris dumped by GM is hazardous.  The IEPA conducts routine tests on the debris dumped by GM as well as the debris pushed outside the mall by American Kitchen Delights during the gutting of Montgomery Wards some 6 months earlier.

June 23, 2005:
The IEPA announces that debris from the Montgomery Wards store has tested positive for asbestos.

June 27, 2005:
Developer John Deneen attends the scheduled Harvey City Council meeting.  Deneen is to present a check for $500,000 to Harvey for the purchase of the mall.  Deneen gives an update on the project which is now stalled because of the asbestos issue.  Deneen is grilled by one Alderman as to how much he knew about the asbestos.

Deneen appears irate on the videotape of the Council meeting and states that the asbestos issue is something he knew about from the get-go.  It is also during the Council meeting that Deneen mentions 2 Grocery stores interested in obtaining space at the mall but makes no further mention of his “top-tier” stores he boasted about in early April.  Deneen predicts that the asbestos situation will be resolved in 2 weeks and the project will proceed forward.  As a closing gesture Deneen makes mention of a 12 screen movie theater chain interested in locating at the site.  The announcement is met with massive applause by all Council members except for one.

June 28, 2005:
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan files a lawsuit against American Kitchen Delights, it’s owner Shanawaz Hasan of Libertyville, IL. & The City of Harvey.  The six-count complaint charges the defendants with numerous violations of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act.  The IEPA and the Illinois Department of Public Health slap a “cease & desist” order on any further demolition at Dixie Square.  This grinds any kind of progress on the site to a screeching halt.  AKD & Harvey will have to answer to the allegations and both the IEPA and the IDPH must be satisfied with the proper removal of the asbestos throughout the entire structure before any demolition will be allowed to continue.

June 30, 2005:
Responding to the lawsuit, American Kitchen Delights President Shanawaz Hasan vows to clean up the mess and bring the renovation in line with the IEPA’s demands.  It is also revealed at this time that AKD began gutting the Wards space without any permit from the City of Harvey.  In an interview with The Star, Hasan said “We are working with the IEPA as well as with the city to finalize these things and get it over with, We don’t have any problems with cleaning it up.”

August 28, 2005:
After two months since the IEPA determined no work could be done at the mall until the asbestos was safely removed, very little was happening on any front. Developer John Deneen had all but vanished.  A story in The Star on this day quotes Alderman Crudup as saying “All we are waiting on is the title”.  Harvey officials were apparently looking very hard to locate the title to the property, which one could assume, had been lost somewhere.  Developer Deneen would have to see that all of the asbestos was removed before he could begin demolition/construction.  He would also need to purchase the property in order to perform those tasks.  He will also need the title to the property to purchase it. Alderman Crudup adds “I was hoping we could (start) anywhere from a week to a month, We’re looking good for September.”

September 15, 2005:
Harvey gets ready to close a deal with Joe Letke, an accountant from Homewood, on a $20 million dollar housing development & shopping center across the street from Dixie Square.  Letke hopes to lure Subway & Starbucks to the development.  Letke has a check for $175,000 as a down payment on the property and awaits City Council approval on the land redevelopment deal.  It is expected to be discussed during the September 26th Harvey City Council meeting. Letke’s firm also happens to be the City of Harvey’s accountant.

October 2, 2005:
The YMCA project finally gets a go ahead to begin construction, 9 months after the
project was approved. Developer John Deneen selects a company to begin removing the asbestos from Dixie Square Mall.  Deneen estimates that the asbestos removal will take about a year.

October 30, 2005:
One month after approving a deal with City Accountant Joe Letke, Mayor Kellogg
cancels the deal in a much publicized event.  Harvey officials begin targeting do-nothing developers, those that have made promises to pay for land but have not done so yet.  John Deneen is not one of the developers.

November 3, 2005:
The Star news paper reports that asbestos removal (from the Wards incident) is on schedule to be completely removed by the pre-determined date set by the Attorney General’s office.

December 20, 2005:
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan files a 2nd lawsuit over asbestos at Dixie Square. The new 10 count complaint concerns the renovations and clearing out of the former JC Penney’s store.  Defendants named in the lawsuit: City of Harvey, Emerald Property Group & John Deneen, Windy City Construction & Jesse Williams and GM Demolition Corp. & Gordon Martin.

In a prepared statement Madigan said” The JC Penney renovations were done with little or no concern for the dangerous health hazards associated with improper asbestos removal. This work needlessly endangered the health of workers on the site as well as residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the site.”

The lawsuit carries the following fines for the JC Penney renovation:
Defendants fined $50,000 for each violation
Defendants fined $10,00 for each day the violations continue
Defendants fined $1,000 a day for violating the  Commercial and Public Building
Asbestos Abatement Act.

December 24, 2005 (Christmas Eve):
While the rest of the City of Harvey is enjoying the eve of Christmas, out at Dixie
Square Mall, a demolition crew begins ripping down the mall.  The demolition crew chooses to start de-constructing the only portion of the mall somebody has actually payed for.  The crew rips through 60% of Montgomery Wards before Mayor Eric Kellogg, who just by coincidence happened to be driving by the mall at the very same time, stops the crew and informs them they are tearing down the wrong part of the mall. Wards was purchased by American Kitchen Delights almost a year prior for $100,000. At this point, no part of the mall could have been “legally” torn down because of asbestos issues.  Why the demo crew chose Christmas Eve to start tearing down a mall with a “Cease & Desist” work order slapped on it by the State of Illinois remains a mystery.

January 1, 2006:
Everyone, including American Kitchen Delights owner Shahnawaz Hasan, is confused as to why a demo crew practically leveled the Wards building.  City of Harvey spokeswoman Sandra Alvarado, in an article published in The Star news paper this day, says she “does not know why workers demolished part of the Wards building.”

Alvarado adds “We’re Looking into it.”

Mr. Hasan offers a quote in the same article that doesn’t escape anyone.
“Why would I be demolishing that building? I want that building.”

January 8, 2006:
Seven days later the City of Harvey still offers no explanation for the demolition
despite Sandra Alvarado’s claim that “(they are) Looking into it.”

January 12, 2006:
Eleven days after the “accidental” demolition the City of Harvey finally assigns blame. The City announces that a demo crew connected to developer John Deneen was responsible for the mishap. The following is copied from an article published in The Star news paper on this day:

Assistant planning director LaTonya Rufus said city officials plan to fine the demolition company for the error.

Ald. Ronald Waters, 6th Ward, said city officials should ban the demolition company
from doing all future work in the city.

He said they had a “gross disrespect” for Harvey.

“We demolished property that we already sold,” Ald. Thomas Dantzler, 4th Ward, said.

Dantzler then asked the city attorney whether the city would take legal action.

“I won’t discuss that in open session,” city attorney Bettie Lewis said.

January 26, 2006:
After 10 months of promises to close on the property by the City of Harvey and developer John Deneen, the City releases a timeline for further action at Dixie Square. The City of Harvey releases this timeline, obviously put together by overzealous developer Deneen, despite the fact that Deneen still has not purchased the property.

Demolition is to begin on the entire mall on February 1st.

On May 1, 2007, the first “big box” store will open and, five months later, the second “big box” store will open for business.

January 29, 2006:
A full article published in The Star news paper on this day:

Developer John Deneen is close to finalizing a deal to purchase the entire 46-acre Dixie Square Mall site in Harvey, according to officials on both sides of the deal.

Included in the deal is the former Montgomery Wards building, which the city already sold to another developer, Shahnawaz Hasan, owner of American Kitchen Delights.

“We got the whole thing,” Deneen said of the mall site last week. “Several months ago, we took over the whole site.”

Harvey city officials did not comment directly on the Wards building.

City spokeswoman Sandra Alvarado said officials still are working out the terms of the deal. City officials plan to sell the site for $150,000, she said.

“We have not closed the deal with (Deneen’s company) the Emerald Property Group,” Alvarado said. “We are currently working out the issues with that property.”

Last year, the city sold the former Wards department store for $100,000 to Hasan, who was seeking to expand his airline food business.

Deneen proposed his plan at about the same time. Initially, the plan included all of the remaining land at the mall site at 153rd Street and Dixie Highway.

Late last month, however, workers began demolishing the Wards building, much to Hasan’s surprise.

“Why would I be demolishing that building? I want that building,” Hasan said at the time.

Hasan was not available for comment last week. A person who answered the phone at his Harvey office said he will return in February from a trip to India.

A demolition company tied to Deneen demolished part of the Wards building in December. The city later fined United Demolition because it did not have a license to do work in the city.

“It was a miscommunication,” Deneen said. He said the company received clearance to do work from the state’s attorney’s office but did not have a business license.

The state’s attorney had to sign off on the work because it had filed two lawsuits for the improper handling of cancer-causing asbestos materials.

Still, Deneen said, the error was not where they should be working, but when. He said he is going to demolish the entire mall — including Wards — as soon as officials close the deal.

“The day we close, that place is coming down,” Deneen said last week. “Just for clarification, we have the entire site.”

When asked about the Wards building, Mayor Eric Kellogg did not comment.

Kellogg, however, said the project will revitalize the city.

“Dixie Square used to be the hope of the city,” Kellogg said Friday.

“When we demolish Dixie Square and put up new stores and reopen the mall, it will be a rebirth, a new direction, a new hope.”

According to a timeline released last week, the first stores at the mall, including a big box, will open in May 2007.

Kellogg said the project could create as many as 200 jobs during construction and after the mall is open.

“We are now at the point where we can see this project moving forward,” he said. “No resident wants to see this eyesore.”

February 5, 2006:
In a dead-on editorial published in The Star news paper this day, the same questions that the citizens of Harvey, Illinois have been asking themselves are brought up front.

The editorial piece was entitled “Sell It Once, Sell It Twice.”

To sell the same piece of property twice is either a bad mistake or a superb example of intestinal fortitude.

Harvey officials aren’t admitting to either of those explanations for the apparent sale of a building at the former Dixie Square shopping center to two separate businessmen.

In fact, they aren’t saying anything about how the Montgomery Ward building, which was sold last year to the owner of a food service company to became part of the city-owned parcel that’s being sold to a Chicago developer.

City officials and developer John Deneen said late last month that the sale was nearly complete. Deneen said he’d been purchasing the entire Dixie Square parcel, a total of 46 acres, and had taken over the whole site “several months ago.”

As last week ended, the sale had still not been completed.

Last year the city sold the Montgomery Ward building to Shahnawaz Hasan, the owner of American Kitchen Delights, for $100,000. He announced plans to use the space as a warehouse.

You may also recall that one of the walls of the Montgomery Ward building was badly damaged last Christmas Eve as part of a demolition project at the mall. City officials appeared to be indignant about the demolition snafu. It turns out that the demolition contractor, working for Deneen, had been planning all along to take down the Wards build along with the rest of the mall.

This is very confusing and raises all kinds of questions about whether the city of Harvey acted in good faith with either businessman. We won’t go into questions of legality, there are lawyers aplenty ready to take on that job, but a double sale certainly looks like the kind of transaction that’s bound to end up in court.

Harvey officials have been enthusiastic for months about plans to redevelop the mall area. The plans included a senior citizen housing center and Hasan’s food service facility. Deneen has ambitious plans to develop at least two big-box stores at the Dixie Square site. According to a timeline released by the city, the first store would open in May 2007.

The story of Dixie Square is well known. It shifted, in a few years, from a prosperous mall to the site of a famous car chase scene in “The Blues Brothers,” which came out in 1980. It’s sat vacant since then, a symbol of economic decay in Harvey.

So any kind of economic development at Dixie Square is positive news. And which is why the apparent double sale of the Montgomery Ward building throws such a damper on redevelopment plans.

Again, the sale of the entire parcel to Deneen (as of this writing) has not been finalized.

If there’s time, the city should reconsider the Ward’s store sale and any legal ramifications that may go along with it. The last thing Harvey officials want to do is saddle residents with attorney bills resulting from a double sale.

More broadly, it’s hard to imagine how city officials could have considered this in the first place.

Residents should be wondering that, too.

February 9, 2006:
4 days later, Mayor Eric Kellogg responds to the editorial himself with this letter to the editor that was published in The Star:

Regarding Sunday’s editorial, “Sell it once, sell it twice”:

This editorial is extremely disheartening to the city of Harvey based on the apparent disregard of the paper to obtain the truth regarding this situation. This editorial is at the very least slanted, unprofessional and provides inaccurate information to the public.

The editorial begins by indicating that the city of Harvey has sold the same piece of property to two separate developers. This information is completely false considering the fact that the city has not issued any deeds at all to the property. Harvey remains the owner of the property commonly known as Dixie Square Mall. Additionally, the city has entered into resolutions approving two separate developers to redevelop separate sections of the mall; however, negotiations remain ongoing with both parties. At no point did the city enter into any agreement to transfer the same portion of the property to two separate developers.

When the city approves resolutions to transfer property, the city enters into negotiations with the developer to finalize the transfer of the property. If the developer is unable or unwilling to complete the sale due to unwillingness to comply with any terms of the agreement required to be signed by the city prior to the transfer, unavailability of funds to complete the transaction, or an inability by the developer to prescribe to the timelines presented by the city for the redevelopment of the parcel, the city then passes an additional resolution declaring the original resolution for the transfer of the property null and void.

A property has not been sold by the city until the agreement is signed by both parties, agreed-upon funds are transferred to the city and a deed is issued by the city in the name of the developer to whom the resolution was granted. In this case, negotiations are ongoing with the city regarding the proposed transactions. Neither negotiation is complete which is why the city has not transferred any portion of the property to date.

With respect to the demolition of the portion of the mall, I personally saw the demolition company attempting to demolish the property and went through the proper steps to stop the demolition immediately. At that time, I was unaware of who ordered the demolition or for what reason, but stopped it promptly. An investigation into the act commenced immediately and the appropriate party was fined by the city for its actions.

The city under my administration has always, and will continue to negotiate in good faith with any and all developers who come forward to bring viable economic development to the residents of Harvey. It has always been, and will continue to be the city’s objective to revitalize Dixie Square Mall to a productive parcel and put the property back on the tax roll.

Eric J. Kellogg, mayor, city of Harvey

February 12, 2006:
Who owns what seems to be the question in this article published in The Star on this date.  The article “Dixie Square Deal Remains On The Table” follows.

Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg said last week city officials have not closed deals on any properties at the city’s Dixie Square Mall site.

Rather, he said, negotiations are continuing with two developers who want to build on the land.

John Deneen wants to develop much of the more than 40 acre mall site, and Shahnawaz Hasan seeks to expand his airline food business, American Kitchen Delights, into the former Montgomery Wards store.

A few city officials have said the city sold the Wards building last summer to Hasan for $100,000.

Kellogg, however, said that never was the case.

In a statement sent last week to The Star, Kellogg said the city still is the owner of the entire mall site.

“The city has not issued any deeds at all to the property,” Kellogg said in the statement. “The city of Harvey remains the owner of the property commonly known as Dixie Square Mall.”

Yet both Deneen and Hasan have claimed the Montgomery Wards site as their own.

Deneen has said he was close to sealing a deal to buy the entire 46 acre property, Wards included, even though city officials previously said Hasan already bought the building.

Hasan declined to comment on the matter when reached Thursday by phone. He said he will address city officials Monday during a city council meeting.

At the same meeting, Kellogg said he expects to unveil the latest plans for the mall site.

“We anxiously look forward to Monday night’s meeting where we will unveil a comprehensive plan for the razing, rebuilding and revitalization of the Dixie mall project,” Kellogg said, declining to reveal any further details.

Kellogg said the city is continuing to negotiate with both developers.

A demolition company linked to Deneen destroyed part of the former Wards store. City officials later fined the company for not having a license to work in Harvey.

At the time of the demolition, Hasan said, “Why would I be demolishing that building? I want that building.”

Meanwhile, in an interview last month, Deneen said he was taking over the entire site.

“We got the whole thing,” Deneen said at the time.

February 16, 2006:
Harvey alderman vote to transfer all of the former mall site to Deneen.

10 months after John Developer proposed the re-development of Dixie Square mall the deal becomes “official”. Harvey Alderman also vote to void an agreement with American Kitchen Delights President Shanawaz Hasan to buy the former Montgomery Wards building.

This bit of political action passes muster even though Hasan already payed the city
$100,000 for the building.  Deneen and Hasan meet behind closed doors with the
Harvey City Council during an executive session to work out the final details.

Of note is the only Alderman to vote “No” to this deal is the most honorable Ronald Waters of the 6th ward.  Waters offers this reasoning behind his nay vote and it is this:

“We are being hoodwinked.  Deneen is not the developer to do this deal…He has done nothing that he said he would do for the last nine months..I have no faith in

February 26, 2006:
Developer John Deneen finally produces a check for $500,000 to the City of Harvey.

Deneen becomes the new owner of Dixie Square mall.

A full fence is erected around the site, security is provided 24/7 and a demo crew
moves into the site on a permanent basis.

March 1, 2006:
Mayor Kellogg invites every media outlet to capture the “faux” demolition of Dixie Square.

Because the Wards building is already almost completely destroyed, the media is invited to set up directly in front of the building as an ancient crane swings a rusted demo ball into a building that is barely standing.  Kellogg speaks to the press in such sweeping terms that every Chicago news outlet reports that the mall was razed that very day.  Because of this, the online community following the story reports the same.  Major news papers across the country, radio and TV outlets and bloggers galore announce that the mall has finally been torn down.  The truth is, after the TV cameras left, demo was stopped.  Deneen is now directly responsible for the removal of ALL of the asbestos contained within the 800,00 square foot structure.  Some $500,000 additional dollars will be needed to facilitate this.

Kellogg , during the media visit to Dixie Square, manages to work JFK into this mis-guided bit of bravado:

“President John F. Kennedy once said that a rising tide raises all ships, What we’re witnessing today is the beginning of a process that will bring new tax revenues to our city and its schools and an opportunity to transform the entire south suburban area.”

March 23, 2006:
Mayor Kellogg, still riding the wave of the Dixie Square total demolition that has not yet happened, throws a bone to the people who open their front doors every day and still have to see the mall. Kellogg holds what sounds like a very expensive breakfast to celebrate something that has yet to take place.

Copied verbatim from http://www.cityofharvey.org

Thank you for your partnership and support in the demolition and rebuilding of the Dixie Square Campus. Please join the Mayor and his staff as we celebrate this grand achievement. IT’S FREE, FREE, FREE, FREE!!!

Held at the Harvey Community Center
15320 S. Center
Harvey, IL
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Bacon, Sausage, Chicken
Salmon Crouquets, Grits
Eggs, Hash Browns, French Toast
Fresh Fruit, Juice, Coffee, & Milk

May 2006:
One of the many Dixie Square “spotters’ reports that the security force, the demo crew et al. have packed up and left the site.  A license posted around the site gives a date of “pull-out” as August 21, 2006.  The license for demolition will expire on this date, yet 3 months before that , Deneen has obviously run out of funds to support such a full crew at the site.  On March 19, Dixie Square “spotters” descend on the mall, question the security guard and have an open talk with the site foreman.  It is during this time that much information is shared between Dixie Square fans,  the documentary film crew and the people payed to work the site. Deneen, as related to the film crew, has no money left to support this project.

May 22, 2006:
Dixie Square “spotters” report the John Deneen “Dolton Water Park” project is not even close to being finished despite promises that it would open on June 1st.  The highlight of this report is that a demo crew has “accidentally” destroyed the roof of a building on the site essential to making the water park a reality.

May 23, 2006:
Investigative Services Agencies (based in Chicago) releases it’s own press release via PRNewswire (a pay as you go- do it yourself- press release site) that it has received a contract from Emerald Property Group to provide security at the site of a $70 million dollar mall under construction in Harvey,IL.

This mall under construction is Dixie Square.

According to the press release:
“The mall location was made famous when an earlier mall standing on the property was the site where a crazy police chase scene through the mall was filmed in 1979 for “The Blues Brothers” movie. Emerald Property Group constructs and develops various properties in the greater Chicago area, including a water park, apartment buildings and town homes”.

The “earlier” mall described in the press release still occupies the property on the very day this is bit of “news” is made public.

This is not at all surprising as news coverage of the mall’s “demolition” made national headlines and was described as being razed the day Mayor Kellogg held a press conference on the site on March 1, 2006.  Across the internet, hundreds of Blogs as well as solid news paper articles report the mall has indeed been demolished even though it clearly has not.

June 1, 2006:
Developer John Deneen’s other high profile South Suburban project, “The Dolton
Water Park” which was to house a Hotel and 70,000 square feet of retail space does not open as promised.  A visit to the site on this day reveals that no work has been accomplished since the initial announcement almost two years ago.

June 1- 4, 2006:
Mayor Kellogg & The City of Harvey take a massive beating in the press based on a
series of articles published in various local papers.  The first article, on May 29, shed light on the corruption in Harvey’s Park District as higher ups were exposed using city credit cards to pay for vacations etc.  Two days later a photographer from a local paper is harassed by Harvey police while performing her job.  This incident results in a formal apology from Kellogg and in the ensuing days Editorial pieces published in local papers all but demand the Mayor resign.

This all occurs at the same time the FBI and other government agencies are
investigating Harvey, on various levels, for misuse of funds, police corruption and
other claims.