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Opinion: Chicago’s Little Village Discount Mall vendors at risk of losing their jobs

Chicago’s Little Village Discount Mall located on 3115 W 26th St. was bought by Novak’s Construction Company over two years ago and many vendors still have no idea what’s going to happen. This will have an impact on the vendors’ sales and will result in loss of revenue. The Little Village Discount Mall has been in business for 30 years and vendors have had steady work to look forward to each day to provide for their families, until now.

When the purchase was made back in 2020, many vendors were on the edge and never had a clear understanding of what the future held for them. Until this year when Novak said they would start making major changes to the building, by remodeling and continuing operations but reducing in size, and many vendors will not be able to stay. 

The problem with this remodeling is that vendors and residents are not being told what’s going to happen with the changes and it’s unclear  what direction the project is  going to go, because of the lack of communication from Novak. This brings concern to the Latino community because people will lose their jobs, their clientele and their money. Residents think Novak will make changes and not for the benefit of the Latino community, leaving them to start over or be gentrified. When business developments lie or don’t speak on any changes happening with buildings, people are left to think the worst. 

The only solution here would be that Novak explains its future plans, to vendors and residents, that way vendors can proceed with plans or other ways to continue receiving workflow. Mayor Lori Lightfoot had city officials attend a meeting and pledged to support vendors who may be forced to relocate. They can also provide some kind of resource and fund where they don’t have to pay back because this is something out of their control. Vendors pay rent and mortgage and if they’re being forced to leave they should be paid for their move, specifically from Novak. Which was purchased for 17.5 Million according to the Chicago Sun-Times.  If Novak has the money to purchase a building and remodel it, they have the money and means to give to vendors.  This should be a priority for the new mayor, because residents and vendors deserve answers and a steady income. 

Alderman Byron-Sigcho Lopez has told community members to keep fighting. Novak’s  initial plan was to fix the roof and the parking area with new lighting and landscaping. The building was purchased three years ago from two separate companies, Pilsen Plaza Corporation and PK Mall. Pilsen Plaza Corporation has extended its space to continue leasing to vendors but  PK Mall does not agree with Novak’s terms, so it is unclear what will happen to the other half of the mall. Novak and PK Mall had not come to an agreement due to high rent that seemed unreasonable for vendors, especially during a time when inflation is at its highest.  

It’s disrespectful for vendors who have been there for years to be told to leave and find business elsewhere, due to the purchase from a construction company. Not only is it disrespectful, it is unethical and unsympathetic for the people who have built clientele and money, only for a corporation to feel entitled to kick them out, after so much hard work and several years. This is an important event happening in the culture of Little Village and it’s affecting residents and vendors. This can lead to gentrification, pushing Latinos away from a community they’ve found a home in, and a community that serves Spanish speaking natives.

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