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Demolition Of Famed ‘Blues Brothers’ Mall May Begin This Week

Blues Brothers

John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in ‘The Blues Brothers’ (Credit: Universal Studios)

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HARVEY (CBS) — Demolition of the decaying remnants of Harvey’s Dixie Square Mall could begin by year’s end.

The South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association is poised to approve a contract with a Chicago-based demolition company to raze what remains of the mall, which closed its doors in 1979.

Last September, Gov. Pat Quinn said $4 million in federal funds had been earmarked for the project.

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Work on clearing the property, at 151st Street and Dixie Highway, had been halted after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued Harvey in 2005 over asbestos removal at the site.

The former mall has been the centerpiece of several redevelopment plans through the years — including one involving converting it into a mausoleum — although none has been realized. City officials hope that clearing the remaining buildings on the property will make the site more attractive to developers.

The mayors association solicited bids for the demolition, and the apparent low bidder is McDonagh Demolition, which is offering to do the job for $2.29 million, according to Ed Paesel, the association’s executive director. The executive committee is expected to act on awarding the contract early next month, and McDonagh could start demolition by the end of December, Paesel said.

Illinois received $169 million in federal disaster cleanup funds after the remnants of Hurricane Ike spawned flooding around the state in 2008. Along with the Dixie Square demolition, some of that money has been parceled out to Southland communities for storm sewer projects and purchasing and rehabbing foreclosed homes.

Paesel said while the goal of awarding the demolition contract is to “cure a public health and safety hazard” due to asbestos on the property, there also will be an economic development benefit.

“Ultimately, this (demolition) will enable the site to be redeveloped,” he said.

Dixie Square opened in 1966 on the site of a former golf course. Original tenants included J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, Jewel and Walgreens.

The last time anybody put any real money into the mall was for the 1979 movie “The Blues Brothers,” with the mall getting a temporary face-lift in preparation for a trashing by Jake and Elwood Blues.

Over the years the mall was touted as a possible site of a ballpark for the White Sox, and former Harvey Mayor David Johnson acted as a consultant for a proposal to convert the mall into a transportation hub and government offices. In 2005, would-be developer and Mount Greenwood native John Deneen announced an ambitious $400 million plan to bring retailers such as Costco, Kohl’s and Old Navy.

More recently, a group called MG Development South reportedly has been lining up investors to bring a mixed-use project to the mall site that would include retail and possibly housing.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)