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Megamall Demolition Begins: Neighbors Say Goodbye, Snag Artifacts

By Mina Bloom | December 29, 2016 12:49pm | Updated on December 30, 2016 8:24am
 Peter Contreras, 65, spent more than four hours watching the mall come down on Wednesday.
Peter Contreras, 65, spent more than four hours watching the mall come down on Wednesday.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

LOGAN SQUARE — When crews began tearing down Logan Square's most notorious building, longtime neighbor Peter Contreras stationed himself next to the action and watched the destruction for more than four hours.

"It's something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life," said Contreras, who has lived next to the Megamall, 2500 N. Milwaukee Ave., for 34 years.

Demolition started Wednesday. [All photos DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

The demolition of the Megamall, which started Wednesday after several months of delays, was emotional for Contreras because it marks the end of the 21-year-old indoor flea market. Like many neighbors, the 65-year-old used to frequently shop, dine and play games there with his children.

"It was a lot of real good memories," Contreras said. "It's very sad, but old things gotta come down and new things gotta come up."

In its heyday, the Megamall was the home of an assortment of restaurants and shops selling clothing, cellphones, gym shoes and all manner of tchotchkes. But many say the indoor flea market had been in poor condition and in constant need of repair virtually since it since opened in 1995.

More than two years ago, developer Terraco proposed building a mixed-use development in its place, prompting months of public debate and planning. Last winter, the city gave the developer the green light to build Logan's Crossing, a $100 million mixed-use development that calls for 240 apartments, a Jewel-Osco, XSport Fitness and more.

Demolition originally was slated for the spring, but was pushed back several times. Most recently, the developer needed more time to dismantle the building's terra cotta at the request of neighborhood group Logan Square Preservation. The group hopes to reuse one of the 16-foot archways and salvage the rest.

Logan Square-based artist Emmy Star Brown, 31, snagged two pieces of terra cotta and three of the letters from the "Megamall" sign at the demolition site Thursday.

Logan Square-based artist Emmy Star Brown, 31, with one of the letters.

"It's so cool to have a piece of the history," said Brown, who has lived in the neighborhood since May.

For Brown, the demolition means the end of the colorful murals covering the mall. Back in May, about two dozen of Chicago's top street artists took over the entire building as a farewell to the structure.

The artists were told their works would only be up for a week or two due to the demolition, but the delay allowed for a prolonged exhibition.

"A lot of my friends painted it. I knew this time would come eventually, but it's bittersweet," she said.

As Brown left with artifacts in tow, a wide-eyed Contreras remained at his post next to the construction fence, watching crews remove hunks of debris and metal.

"I'll leave when I get tired," he said.