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Tunney Seeks Changes In East Lakeview Wal-Mart Plan

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) says he wants to see some revisions to the plan for a Wal-Mart store in the East Lakeview neighborhood, while community activists still hope to keep the store out altogether.

In a statement on the 44th Ward service office Web site Wednesday, Tunney said he had heard from many neighbors about the proposed Wal-Mart in the Broadway at Surf retail complex in the 2800 block of North Broadway.

The Wal-Mart store would occupy a vacant storefront where a PetSmart closed last year, but would also displace and force the closure of an existing store – the Cost Plus World Market at 2844 N. Broadway, which has been in business since the Broadway at Surf opened in 1997.

"I understand that to many neighbors, the prospect of a Wal-Mart in the 44th Ward is unacceptable, no matter what the size of the proposed store. I have also heard from neighbors who would like to see a low-cost grocery store at that location," Tunney said on his Web site. "The City of Chicago cannot legally exclude a business from entering into a tenant agreement if that tenant conforms to underlying zoning."

Tunney says he says he is seeking commitments and limitations from Wal-Mart about the proposed store, including a cap on the maximum square footage in the store, and a commitment that the retailer will not expand to more storefronts in the Broadway at Surf building or other nearby sites.

He also wants to see Wal-Mart commit to selling a higher percentage of groceries and fresh produce at the store. At a meeting of the South East Lake View Neighbors Association (SELVN), Wal-Mart spokesman John Bisio said the store would carry food and produce items, beauty products, pharmacy items, and "limited" general merchandise such as computer printer paper.

Tunney is also asking for a dedicated traffic management plan that would limit delivery times and would need to receive the approval of the Chicago Department of Transportation, and a community benefits program under which Wal-Mart would assist local non-profits.

The alderman is also still considering a proposal to downzone the block of Broadway where the retail complex is located, which would limit any new store opening in the area to 25,000 square feet. The current plan for the proposed Wal-Mart is about 30,000 square feet.

The owners and real estate managers of the Broadway at Surf building have objected to the downzoning proposals, on the grounds that it might keep out future tenants that require more space. Dick Spinell, principal of building property manager Mid-America Real Estate, has said he hopes someday to see a Nordstrom Rack or a Saks store locate in the complex.

Meanwhile, opposition to the Wal-Mart remains stiff in the neighborhood.

Anti-Wal-Mart Protest In Chicago
Signs against a proposed Wal-Mart have been popping up in the Lakeview neighborhood. (CBS)

The "Stop the Lakeview/Lincoln Park Wal-Mart Facebook group has swelled past 800 members, and an online petition has been circulated against Wal-Mart coming into the community at all. Opponents are also collecting petition signatures from neighborhood residents in person.

At the Monday night meeting, about 150 people attended, most wearing buttons or stickers protesting the arrival of Wal-Mart. After Bisio gave a presentation about the plan, dozens of people lined up to voice their opposition to Wal-Mart moving into the neighborhood.

Opponents expressed concerns that a Wal-Mart would drive out small businesses and cost the neighborhood jobs, criticized the retailer's business and labor practices, and worried about traffic congestion and delivery trucks in the area. They also emphasized that unlike other communities that Wal-Mart has said it plans to enter in the city, East Lakeview is not a "food desert."

The Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce has also come out against the proposed Wal-Mart, over concerns about its effect on smaller businesses. At the Monday night meeting, chamber executive director Maureen Martino said small merchants constitute 80 percent of the businesses in the neighborhood.

Martino said Wal-Mart had not offered research to show an East Lakeview store would be successful, or the impact it would have on small businesses.

A couple of people spoke in support of Wal-Mart at the Monday night meeting, but only a few people clapped after the supporters' comments, while many Wal-Mart opponents generated thunderous applause at the meeting.

Meanwhile, reports of possible plans for yet another Wal-Mart store have surfaced. On Wednesday, Crain's Chicago Business reported that the retail giant is seeking to open a small-scale Wal-Mart Express store in the former Pearl Art Supplies store, at 225 W. Chicago Ave.

Wal-Mart has officially secured plans for six stores of various sizes across the city. These include Supercenters at 111th Street and the Bishop Ford Freeway and at 83rd Street and Stewart Avenue; mid-size Neighborhood Market stores at 76th Street and Ashland Avenue and in the Presidential Towers, 555 W. Madison St.; and convenience store-style Wal-Mart Express stores at 71st Street and Western Avenue, and in the same shopping center as one of the Supercenters at 83rd Street and Holland Road.

A revised East Lakeview Wal-Mart plan is expected at a SELVN community meeting on May 9 at the Wellington Avenue Church, 615 W. Wellington Ave.

CBS Chicago Web Producer Adam Harrington contributed to this report.

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