After years of false starts and decades of dilapidation, the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey is finally coming down.
joined south suburban officials at the Harvey police station this morning to announce the start of the demolition, while crews swept away and sorted debris at the 39-acre site nearby.
"Where there is no vision, the people perish," Quinn said. "We have a vision for the south suburbs and we're going to build anew. When people come through here in a year or two, they're going to see something very special."
The shopping center at 151st Street and Dixie Highway became famous for its cameo in the 1980s film
tore through its walls in the movie's iconic mall car chase scene.
"The former Dixie Square Mall was once the heart of a thriving industrial community," said Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg. "However, the filming of this movie left the city of Harvey with an eyesore that has become one of the oldest white elephants in the country."
The mall opened in 1966 and housed more than 60 merchants at its peak, including Montgomery Ward,
, Jewel and Walgreens. Despite its brief turn in Hollywood, the structure has been vacant for 33 years, more than twice the amount of time it was originally open for business.
As the structure continued to crumble, Harvey officials fruitlessly sought opportunities to redevelop the site, touting it as a strategic location for establishing commerce along the Dixie Highway and for reviving the local economy. During the last six years, ownership has changed four times and legal issues have stymied proposals for the property.
Developer John Deneen began a $76 million redevelopment in 2006, but that effort collapsed after contractors filed liens against the mall property and
levied a lawsuit against Deneen.
In 2010, Quinn pledged $4 million in state disaster relief funds to tear down the structure. Finally in January, contractors received the permits to begin demolition.
"It's projects like this that give cities like Harvey the opportunity to thrive," said Rep.
, D-Hazel Crest. "This is truly not a handout, but a hand up."
The demolition will take about six months to complete. Kellogg said that he would like to see stores and restaurants replace the rubble so that Harvey residents no longer will have to look outside city limits for shopping.
"Now we have the opportunity to bring that retail right here to our city," Kellogg said. "The former Dixie Square Mall will truly be a memory of 'The Blues Brothers' and not a sign of blight and decay."