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Wal-Mart Now Open Near Boystown Strip

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Wal-Mart store is now open in Lakeview, although not the one that generated a flurry of controversy among neighbors earlier this year.

The Wal-Mart Express store at 3636 N. Broadway, just north of Addison Street, opened for business Wednesday. Ald. James Cappleman (46th), whose ward includes the store, and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who represents the neighboring ward just to the south, were both present for the ribbon-cutting.

Tunney's ward includes another proposed location for a Wal-Mart store at 2840 N. Broadway in the Broadway at Surf shopping center. Crain's Chicago Business reported Wednesday that plans are still moving forward for that store to open in the spring, but there have been no reports about any lease on the space being finalized.

While the 3636 N. Broadway building was vacant before Wal-Mart moved in, the Broadway at Surf space Wal-Mart plans to take over is now occupied in part by a popular Cost Plus World Market store. It would also take over two long-vacant spaces once occupied by a Wolf Camera and a PetSmart.

The building that houses Wal-Mart that opened Wednesday previously housed a dairy and candy company, and most recently the Recycled Paper Greetings card company, which moved out and left the building vacant in 2007. It is known in the neighborhood for the old-fashioned wooden water tank in the back of the structure.

Crain's reports the new Wal-Mart occupies 14,800 square feet and focuses largely on groceries. It is two doors away from a large Walgreens drugstore, and just across Addison Street from a Jewel store and a Treasure Island store at the intersections of Broadway with Brompton and Cornelia avenues, respectively.

Wal-Mart told WBEZ the new store is creating 45 to 50 new jobs.

The store is steps away from the Boystown nightlife strip, and WBEZ reports Wal-Mart donated to several gay and lesbian nonprofits in advance of the opening, including the Howard Brown Health Center and the Center on Halsted.

But on the Boystown Facebook page, reaction to the new store was largely negative.

"Absolutely disgusting! So much for local city reps keeping their neighborhoods in mind," one Facebook user wrote.
It's like saying, let's just destroy the diversity of the neighborhood and make them like all the suburbs."

Another simply wrote that "Boystown is in BIG trouble."

Even as shelves appeared in preparation for opening the store in late October, hostile messages opposing Wal-Mart were seen etched in the dust in the windows.

The other planned Wal-Mart store farther south was the subject of heated protests for several months earlier this year. They said the store would decimate the many locally-owned small businesses along Broadway and other nearby commercial strips, and permanently change the character of the neighborhood for worse.

There were also concerns that Wal-Mart might expand to the entire building.

But opposition died down after Wal-Mart agreed to a "restrictive covenant," which would legally limit the store to 33,395 square feet – actually slightly more space than the retailer is planning to take, so as to allow for small expansions for "administrative" purposes. If Wal-Mart elects to expand in violation of the agreement, the restrictive covenant allows the community to take the retailer to court to stop the expansion.

And while some neighbors called on Tunney to oppose the Broadway at Surf Wal-Mart, he refused to do so. At the community meeting last spring, Tunney said as far as Wal-Mart expanding in Chicago – and Lakeview – that ship sailed with an agreement with organized labor last summer, and "discriminating" against the retailer now would open up the city to litigation.

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