Walmart to open 6 new stores in Chicago

March 17, 2011 4:33:21 AM PDT
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has announced plans to build six new stores throughout Chicago.

Two of those stores will be built in the Englewood neighborhood on the city's South Side -- a supermarket-style store at 76th and Ashland and a smaller Walmart express convenience store about a dozen blocks away.

The stores are expected to create nearly 1,000 permanent jobs and 200 construction jobs.

Currently, there is one Walmart store on the city's West Side.

Mayor Richard M. Daley joined company executives Wednesday at an event celebrating the Walmart's plans for the struggling Englewood neighborhood. He stopped just short of calling some unions racist for opposing Walmart stores in the city while not opposing them in the suburbs.

"When it comes to people who need a job, don't wait for six years anymore," said Daley.

With fewer than nine weeks to go in his final term, Daley took a parting shot at anti-Walmart trade unions that used aldermen to delay the giant retailer's Chicago expansion.

"Now who opposeed you? Who still opposes you? Figure that out because when construction comes, i want to see men and women of color on this job," said Daley.

Like the company's supercenters -- the first opened on the West Side six years ago -- the smaller outlets will offer fresh foods and jobs, which are difficult to find in underserved black and Latino neighborhoods.

"We wanted to give more Chicagoans the same opportunities that we provided on the West Side," said Julie Murphy, Walmart executive.

But in the relatively affluent Lakeview neighborhood on the North Side, Walmart is facing a zoning challenge as it tries to open a supermarket in the 2800 block of North Broadway that some businesses complain is too large for the neighborhood. A Walmart spokesman says size is not an issue under the company's urban business plan.

"These stores range from less than 30,000 square feet to up to 150,000 square feet. So depending on the needs of the community and the size and the space that's available, we've got a store to fit," said Steve Restive, Walmart spokesman.

A downtown store is also planned at Presidential Towers in the West Loop.

Mayor Daley concedes that he and Walmart beat the unions and won the battle for Chicago because of the recession and the need for jobs.

"This is a good thing for our community and today you see it," said Daley.

The first new store openings are scheduled for later this year.

Walmart hopes to have dozens of Chicago locations, it says, employing as many 10,000 by 2015.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.