Shopper concerns push city to take action

Local News

EFFINGHAM, Ill. (WCIA) — The city council moved last week to put pressure on the owner of the Village Square Mall. They say problems have plagued the building over the past few years.

A large portion of the roof and ceiling tiles inside have been fixed now and people inside the mall say it seems like the owner is taking repairs seriously.

Mayor Jeff Bloemker says they want to send a message they’re prepared to take it to court if necessary.

“The intent is to take a perfectly good retail asset for the community, and just make sure that it’s safe.”

Shoppers have raised questions in the past few years as they spotted a leaky roof, sketchy ceiling tiles, mold and exposed electrical wires. Fire inspectors also noticed a dysfunctional fire alarm and sprinkler system this spring.

“We want to be very clear that the Village Square Mall has not been considered unsafe at this time.”

Customer concerns are the reason Bloemker says the city is taking action.

“To enable us to take certain provisions to make sure that the Village Square Mall stays a safe structure.”

The new ordinance lets them issue a notice to owners, if they don’t address the hazards, the city can sue to require repairs.

“We certainly hope we don’t have to take further steps and intervene in the Village Square Malls’ business, but again the biggest message we want to send is that the mall is a safe structure and a good place to do business at the same time.”

It’s good news to Olivia Stanfield, who says it might bring more shoppers in. She works at the snowcone stand across the parking lot.

“I know a lot of people think it’s a run-down mall, but if they’re making these improvements maybe people will see that and say, ‘Oh wow, it’s not as bad as we thought it was.'”

She says she’s heard of older adults talk about how the mall used to be years ago and wonders if some of that magic will return. It’s something Bloemker is betting on.

Enclosed malls have gradually been fading out across America over the years.

Bloemker says if it comes down to it, they might have to look at trying to re-purpose the spot. He says that doesn’t look like it’s in the near future though.

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