Push to bring Walmart to South Side

November 4, 2009 (CHICAGO) They have organized a petition drive to try and persuade Walmart and the city to make it happen. But there is some opposition.

This is the first public push for a Walmart in Englewood. This is in addition to the ongoing effort to bring the chain to Chatham. Supporters say the store can boost blighted communities. Critics want Walmart to agree to their terms to make that happen.

A group of Englewood residents and community activists stood on the site where they say a Walmart would greatly benefit the neighborhood. They rallied at 63rd and Halsted, holding 5,000 signatures of people who signed petitions in support of the big-box store.

"There's nowhere to shop here. There's nowhere to get fresh produce. There's nowhere to get school supplies. You have a multi-million dollar college right across the street," said Darryl Smith, Englewood Political Task Force.

Smith plans to present the signatures to Mayor Daley Thursday in hopes of getting City Hall behind the plan.

But that's been an ongoing struggle for Alderman Howard Brookins, who has been trying for years to bring Walmart to the Chatham community. He is pushing for a hearing that will help pave the way for a supercenter that sells groceries to build on a former industrial site.

"You can point to people not having shopping choices within their communities as being one of the reasons Chicago is in such financial straits that we're in today," said Brookins, 21st Ward.

Some community activists are hesitant to increase Walmart's presence in Chicago. Reverend Booker Vance says he would like to see the big-box chain commit to what's called a "community benefit agreement" first.

"If they're not going to pay people living wages, if they're not gonna offer folk health benefits that are adequate, and if they're not gonna allow folks the chance to organize ... not of any benefit to us," said Rev. Booker Vance, Good Jobs Chicago.

The first Walmart in Chicago opened three years ago on the West Side in Alderman Emma Mitt's ward. She says the store has been a good community partner offering much needed jobs.

"There are people who shop at Walmart every day. And you can't go wrong when you're bringing a service to your community," said Mitts.

Walmart said in a written statement that, "The store has been meeting with local Chicago community organizations for the last five years to learn how we can better serve our customers...particularly those who live in food deserts and underserved areas. We will continue to do so as we are presented with new opportunities."

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