Committee approves South Side Walmart plans

June 26, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The full council will take up the issue next week.

If it passes, people in other parts of the city say they are hoping to see Walmart open up shop in their communities.

Earlier this week, Walmart announced it hopes to open dozens of small and large stores in the city.

This morning, some residents in another South Side neighborhood say they a Walmart.

With plans in the works to build a Walmart on Chicago's far South Side, people in Englewood want their neighborhood to be next.

"63rd and Halsted Street was like the downtown of Englewood," said community activist Bryant David. "They had everything: from Hillman's, Sears, Woolworth, Goldblatt's. Today, it's an empty place."

Both neighborhood residents and community activists say the area remains economically depressed and needs both the jobs and services a Walmart superstore can offer.

The Chicago City Council's zoning committee voted to rezone property in the Pullman Park neighborhood so the retailer could build there.

"For the Walmart in Pullman, we'll put a Walmart right here at 63rd and Halsted in Englewood," said Darryl Smith of the Englewood Political Taskforce.

Labor leaders say Walmart has promised to pay workers at least $8.75 per hour with minimum raises of 40 cents within a year. The minimum wage in Illinois will be $8.25 per hour as of July 1.

The world's largest retailer says it can bring new jobs and access to fresh groceries to deprived neighborhoods.

That may not be good for Hamouda Jaber's convenience store. He fears that if a Walmart comes to Englewood, he may have to close the corner store he opened with four employees a year ago.

"I don't think we would last very long when they opened," said Jaber, who runs the 63rd Convenience Mart. "I think it would be great for the community, but I think we would be probably the first store affected."

Carol Jackson, who has lived in Englewood for 41 years, said she has to take two buses and travel for several hours to buy groceries and would love having a Walmart store in her community.

"I think it would be beautiful, because we don't have nowhere to shop around here - nowhere," said Jackson.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Chicago's unemployment rate was 10.5 percent in May, compared to a 9.7 percent national average.

Because of that, Mayor Daley says Walmart is a good idea.

"This is a big revenue side, there's a job producing side, for Chicago," said Daley.

Chicago's first Walmart store opened in 2006 in the 37th Ward providing over 400 jobs, with half filled by neighborhood residents.

37th Ward Alderman Emma Mitts said that other businesses are still operating in the area as well.

"It's just a win-win - I mean, if you don't have anything - I told them years ago, some jobs beat no jobs; some wages beat no wages," said Mitts.

Some say the economy is the driving force behind the agreement between politicians, unions and Walmart.

In 2006, Chicago's City Council passed a measure requiring big box stores to pay certain wages. Mayor Daley vetoed it.

Walmart says the stores planned for Chicago could add 12,000 jobs over five years and more than $500 million in sales taxes and property taxes for the city.

The South Side store would open in early 2012.

The fight to bring more Walmart stores to Chicago is also the subject of ABC7's Newsviews this week. The discussion airs Sunday morning during the news starting at 8 a.m.

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