Black suburb developing into a polished jewel

By Wendell Hutson, Contributing Writer

During a Jan. 23, 2020 round table discussion with local media outlets Matteson Mayor Sheila Chalmers-Currin (in blue) explained why Matteson is the best location for a casino in the southlands.

There are not many south suburbs whose population is predominantly black with nearly 20,000 residents of which 31 percent are college graduates, average home values above $181,000, operates on a $25 million budget, and whose household median income is $81,000 per year.

The one suburb with all of these things is Matteson whose ongoing economic development could soon make it the premier place to live, work and play, according to Matteson Mayor Sheila Chalmers-Currin, a Matteson resident for 37 years.

Developments include nine car dealerships; a Pete’s Fresh Market set to open this fall; a 75-unit, assisted living facility for seniors; 306 new homes planned for Brookmere, a residential complex; and a Sam’s Fulfillment Center, which replaced the shuttered Sam’s Club. And the village is also seeking a proposed casino at Harlem and Lincoln Highway where Carsons once occupied.

Matteson Mayor Sheila Chalmers-Currin discusses current economic development projects taking place in the south suburb and explains why the village is a destination for anyone looking for a good place to work, shop and live, while LaVern Murphy, Matteson’s deputy director of Economic Development, looks on.

“We are one of the few communities where there’s growth going on and we’re still growing. This is a place where people want to live and raise their family,” Chalmers-Currin said during a Jan. 23 round table discussion with local media outlets. “Matteson is a place where you can live, shop and work.”

But one of the biggest commercial developments underway is the 6-acre Market Square Crossing, which includes the redevelopment of the former Lincoln Mall shopping center located along Lincoln Highway and Cicero Avenue near Interstate 57. While no completion date is set yet Chalmers-Currin said she plans to stay in office until the three-phase project is completed.

“I’m not going anywhere until it’s done. This is one of the things that will keep me running for office. This is extremely important to me and is worth seeing through its final stage,” added Chalmers-Currin. “Ideally, I’d like to see it done in the next three to five years.”


According to Keith Lord, president of Chicago-based The Lord Companies LLC, which is the developer for Market Square, the mixed-use project will include nearly 600 housing units (townhomes and condominiums) built into four-story buildings with commercial use at the ground level. The redevelopment plan will also include an entertainment and sports venue and 30 acres of green space

Frederick Illgen, who bought 40 acres of land from the government and thus laid the foundation stone, established the village of Matteson in 1848. And the village is named after former Illinois Gov. Joel A. Matteson.

And upon completion Market Square would not have any big box stores like Target or Walmart, said Lord. “I envision 50 to 60 retail tenants at Market Square Crossing and we want community-oriented retail that will appeal to residents,” said Lord. “Big box stores

are having trouble all across the United States so for now we’re not going to go down that road.”

But it’s not just Chalmers-Currin, a wife and mother, advocating for Matteson but residents too.

Brian Baker, 56, said he moved to Matteson in 2001 after living 30 years in South Shore.

“I got sick and tired of paying higher taxes every year and getting far less for my money when it came to schools and other public services,” said Baker. “Since living in Matteson I have a greater piece of mind, I’m getting more for my taxes and I have everything I need here from housing and restaurants to shopping choices.”

Other elected officials agreed with Chalmers-Currin that Matteson is a south suburb on the move.

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL), whose district includes Matteson where she also lives, said good leadership is why Matteson has become the village it is today.

“As a former employee of the village of Matteson I know how hard President Chalmers-Currin and her staff had to work to bring this project [Market Square Crossing] to fruition and for that I say thank you,” said Kelly.

And state Rep. Debbie Myers-Martin (D-38th Dist), whose district also includes Matteson, added the village is an example of how a suburb should look.

“Matteson is now an example of how municipalities should monitor and adapt to the ever changing consumer shopping trends,” said Myers-Martin. “This is an exciting time for us here in southern Cook County.”

Long-term Chalmers-Currin said before she leaves office she wants a jobs component for the village.

“I want Matteson to the place where you come to find a good, paying job, a safe community to live and a place that offers a comfortable atmosphere for everyone,” added Chalmers-Currin. “And I want people to remember that these improvements started under my watch.”

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