It's business as usual for Little Village's Discount Mall, for now
CHICAGO (CBS) – It's business as usual at the beloved Discount Mall in Little Village. The lease was set to expire at midnight, until another extension was issued.
That prevents the closure of about 200 businesses, but the shopping center's future is still in limbo following its sale to a developer. CBS 2's Andrew Ramos spoke to concerned vendors.
If you take a stroll down West 26th Street in Little Village, you can feel the culture. It's that feeling of community and tradition that has allowed people here, mostly made up of Mexican immigrants, to have a sense of belonging.
And for entrepreneurs chasing the American dream, the Discount Mall has been their outlet.
For nearly four decades, the shopping plaza has housed more than 200 vendors who sell everything from dresses, to boots, to electronics.
But it's been an uneasy past three years after the site was sold to developer Novak Construction. Vendors like Juan Zarrate, who has operated his pet shop at the mall since it first opened, has heard little to nothing about the future.
Zarrate said in Spanish, "They keep saying that they are going to close us down. It makes me uncomfortable. I don't know what to believe."
Veronica and Miguel Gutierrez, who run an electronics booth, are in the same boat.
"We are living in fear because we don't know what's going to happen," Miguel said. "We don't know if we're gonna get kicked out of this mall."
It's that lack of communication that has frustrated many vendors at the Discount Mall, where three lease extensions have already been issued. The latest one happened this week, which buys both sides more time to sort out the future.
After mounting pressure, Novak Construction responded to the outcry from vendors concerned about being displaced, finally agreeing to meet with them.
The company said in a statement: "Novak looks forward to sharing plans for improvements to the mall and correcting recent misrepresentations. Our goal is to benefit the Little Village community and continue the traditions that attract shoppers and visitors to the Discount Mall."
While she's open to any discussions, Veronica Gutierrez is making just one plea. In Spanish, she said "If these people have plans and projects, we want to be included in those projects. Don't leave us behind."
The much-anticipated meeting between vendors and developer Novak Construction is set for Feb. 16.
While no official plan for the site has been announced, vendors here said they just want to be part of the next chapter.
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