CHATHAM — Every time Rick Douglas shops at the Chatham Ridge Shopping Mall on the South Side there’s one thing that bothers him about it.
“Best Buy is gone and nothing has replaced it,” said Douglas, 54, a Chatham resident for 10 years. “I wouldn't mind seeing another electronics store or a Macy’s.”
Residents said the space, vacated by Best Buy in April, has become an eyesore for the middle-class community.
“I park my car at the mall during the week to catch the train downtown to work, and every month I expect to look over there and see a grand opening sign for a new store,” said Wendy Newsome, 46, a Chatham resident for 21 years. “You can see the empty store from the expressway too. No wonder no one shops there anymore.”
The so-called '‘eyesore'’ could be gone this year, said Staurt Lenhoff, a spokesman for Horizon Realty Services Inc., which has been hired by Best Buy Co. to sublease the space at the strip mall at 87th and State streets.
“Best Buy’s lease runs until January 2016, and it would rather sublease the store than continue paying rent for empty space,” Lenhoff said. “If all goes well there will be a new, national tenant signed to the space by May. It would be a [national] retailer the community would support and appreciate having at the mall.”
Rent to sublease the 41,268-square-foot space is $65,000 a month, Lenhoff said.
Ald. Howard Brookins Jr., whose 21st ward includes the mall, said Jewel Osco is a part owner of the mall, and has been working with the grocery chain to upgrade the mall.
“It needs better lighting and some exterior work done to it. Personally, I don’t think the owners give a damn about filling the space as long as Best Buy is still paying rent,” Brookins contended. “A restaurant would go good there because there are no sit-down restaurants at the mall other than a few fast-food restaurants that have limited seating.”
Shari Johnson, 45, said she hopes a shoe store replaces Best Buy.
“Personally, I would like to see a Shoe Carnival go there. A shoe store is needed because there are no real shoe stores besides Payless at this mall,” she said. “I was beginning to wonder what was going on with that space and why it is taking so long to attract another store. By now I would have thought a store would be open but that is not the case."
Karen May, a spokeswoman for Jewel Osco, was unavailable for comment.
Regardless of what new store moves into the space, Matthew Fisher, 51, said anything is better than nothing — although he has his preferences.
“I don’t care what opens there as long as it is something the community needs and not another barbecue restaurant, cell phone store or jewelry store," Fisher said. “We have too many of those already.”