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Wal-Mart Plans Market Store In West Loop

UPDATED 02/24/11 6:02 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Wal-Mart is planning to open a downsized market-style store at the Presidential Tower apartment complex just west of the Loop.

A Wal-Mart spokesman confirmed to CBS 2 Wednesday that the big-box retailer plans to open a 26,000 square-foot store on the ground floor of Presidential Towers, 555 W. Madison St. The company would not say when the store would open.

Wal-Mart director of community affairs Steve Restivo told the Chicago Sun-Times the store will sell meat, fresh produce and other groceries, and will include a pharmacy, deli and bakery. The store will also sell pet supplies, household supplies and paper goods, but it is not certain whether electronics will be sold, the Sun-Times reported.

Restivo told the Sun-Times the company hopes the store will be a "convenient" solution for grocery shoppers in the "walkable" community.

The "Neighborhood Market" store would be the first in the Chicago area, a Wal-Mart spokesman told the Chicago Tribune. The size of an average Wal-Mart is 108,000 square feet, according to the company website.

No major opposition or backlash to the planned store has been reported, unlike another rumored Neighborhood Market that made headlines a couple of months ago.

In December, reports in the Sun-Times and Crain's Chicago Business indicated that Wal-Mart had signed a letter of intent to move into a space in the Broadway at Surf complex, which is only separated from the Clark Street Borders location by a narrow alley. Some early reports had even suggested that Wal-Mart had already signed a lease for the site and their plans were a done deal.

The rumored Wal-Mart was purported to be moving into a PetSmart store that had recently been vacated. It was to occupy 30,000 square feet for a new "neighborhood market" format store selling groceries and general merchandise.

Immediately, angry neighbors started a Facebook group called "Stop the Lakeview/Lincoln Park Wal-Mart," which swelled to more than 600 members. About 100 people also packed a community meeting in December.

Many said Wal-Mart would put the retailers that line Broadway and Diversey Parkway out of business and rob the neighborhood of its economy and character.

But at the December community meeting, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) read a statement saying Wal-Mart had not signed a lease or letter of intent at the Broadway at Surf building. The retailer only said it was evaluating "a number of potential opportunities."

Still, despite the "no lease and no letter" statement by Wal-Mart, the company has let the door open to making a move on Lakeview and other similar neighborhoods somewhere down the line.

The impending closing of a Borders bookstore directly to the south of the Broadway at Surf recently renewed concerns among some residents about a Wal-Mart "sneaking" into East Lakeview.

The four 49-story buildings of the Presidential Towers complex were completed in 1986, as part of an effort to redevelop and eliminate the old Madison Street Skid Row.

The complex originally included several stores that were not accessible from the sidewalk. But since the firm Waterton Associates LLC bought the complex from the Pritzker family, redevelopment efforts have focused on making the retail accessible to the streets, Crain's Chicago Business reported.

The Wal-Mart will replace a 14,000 square-foot grocery store that closed last spring. Its entrance will be at the corner of Monroe and Jefferson streets, Crain's reported.

Restivo told CBS 2 in July of last year that the retailer is planning "several dozen stores across the city over the next five years."

Some will be as small as 20,000 to 30,000 square feet, while others will be "more traditional sizes that people are used to," Restivo told CBS 2 on July 1, 2010. He said Wal-Mart is looking across the whole city for possible store sites, "with a special focus on the South and West sides – especially in those self-identified food deserts."

Currently, there is only one Wal-Mart store in the city, at North and Kilpatrick avenues on the West Side. Two others are set to open in 2012, in the Pullman Park development at 111th Street and the Bishop Ford Freeway, and at 83rd Street and Stewart Avenue in the Chatham neighborhood.

After the West Side store opened in 2006, expansion plans were put on hold when the City Council passed an ordinance that required big-box retailers to pay a minimum of $10 per hour and $3 hourly in benefits. Mayor Richard M. Daley vetoed the ordinance not long after it was passed.

Wal-Mart finally got the green light for expansion when it reached a deal with labor unions to set starting wages at $8.75 per hour, which is 50 cents less than unions had wanted.

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