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Community Group To Vote On Support For East Lakeview Wal-Mart

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Members of a community group are set to take a vote Monday evening on whether they support a proposed Wal-Mart store in the East Lakeview neighborhood.

Wal-Mart is seeking to move into the Broadway at Surf retail complex, in the 2800 block of North Broadway. The approximately 30,000 square-foot Neighborhood Market store would take over two vacant storefronts, previously occupied by a Wolf Camera and a PetSmart, and sweep out an existing Cost Plus World Market store from a third storefront.

Members of the South East Lake View Neighbors Association (SELVN) are set to vote on their support for the store Monday night at the Wellington Avenue Church, 615 W. Wellington Ave.

The advisory vote will have no binding power over whether the store actually opens. Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) has said previously that the city "cannot legally exclude a business from entering into a tenant agreement if that tenant conforms to underlying zoning."

Also at the meeting, a presentation by opponents of the store is planned, as is discussion of what the community group has termed "restrictive covenants."

A city zoning change is pending that would limit new retailers in the building, and in several storefronts on a stretch of Clark Street just to the west, to 25,000 square feet. The owners and property managers of the Broadway at Surf building have resisted the change.

Wal-Mart spokesman John Bisio presented plans for the store at a SELVN meeting last month. He said the store would carry food and produce items, beauty products, pharmacy items, and "limited" general merchandise such as computer printer paper.

But neighbors have come out in force against the plan, saying it could drive many of the small, locally-owned businesses along Broadway and nearby streets to extinction.

They have also expressed concern about the business and labor practices at the world's largest retailer.

Meanwhile, advertisements for a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market have begun appearing in the neighborhood.

Last week, a full-page ad appeared on the back page of the Windy City Times, a gay and lesbian newspaper for which East Lakeview is one of the primary distribution areas. The ad showed the interior of a Neighborhood Market and read, "'Your neighborhood Wal-Mart will offer a full grocery selection, including fresh produce, meat and dairy products, organic food items and a full-service pharmacy."

Similar ads for Wal-Mart have also appeared on an electronic billboard mounted at the top of a Days Inn building at the northwest corner of Clark Street and Diversey Parkway, among other locations. But none have specified any address.

Also Monday, the Chicago Tribune editorialized in favor of the Wal-Mart, saying opponents object for "only bad reasons," and "competition is good," even if it means a large retailer might wipe out mom-and-pop stores that are "appreciated more than patronized."

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