Lakeview residents react to proposed Walmart

April 12, 2011 3:45:26 AM PDT
Walmart will present its plan Monday night for a new store in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood on the North Side.

The company will meet with area residents about the plan Monday night.

Walmart wants to build a smaller, neighborhood market store in the community.

It would be located in the 2800-block of North Broadway near Diversey.

The idea of a Walmart, no matter how small, doesn't sit well with some Lakeview residents.

There is a concern about the world's largest retailer driving local businesses out of business.

While Walmart has built its neighborhood market stores in smaller cities, it has never opened one in a big city with a dense neighborhood.

It would be the first of its kind in Chicago.

Just north of the very busy intersection of Clark and Diversey sits some available retail space at the Broadway at Surf building, and Walmart wants to move in with a new 30,000 square-foot urban concept called the neighborhood market.

The store would primarily sell groceries.

"I absolutely love Walmart. I've never been to one that is this small so we'll have to see how it goes but less expensive food would be wonderful, I think, for everyone," said Renee Antos, who supports Walmart.

"I try to support businesses that are closer to home, not as huge as Walmart. It would be something I wouldn't support," said Jon Tipon, who opposes Walmart.

Protecting local businesses is why the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce opposes the Walmart project.

Chamber of Commerce Director Maureen Martino says 80 percent of the businesses in East Lakeview are mom-and-pop shops.

"There is a little concern on where it ends, if it truly is going to be a grocery store or is going to be what Walmart traditionally does, just keep expanding to other things and morphing itself," Martino said.

Alderman Tom Tunney, 44th Ward, is hoping a zoning amendment he introduced, which limits the neighborhood market to 25,000 square feet, will prevent Walmart from expanding.

"Hopefully, we can come to some compromise that will bring them into the community, limit size and also be primarily food," Tunney said.

Tunney says because the space is already zoned retail, he cannot legally prevent Walmart from moving into Lakeview.

Some neighborhood associations are concerned about the project, but have yet to take a position until Walmart divulges more details about the merchandise the retailer plans to sell besides food.

"There are definitely chains in the area but none that have the same type of impact that Walmart can have," said York Chan with Southeast Lakeview Neighbors.

Neighborhood groups and the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce say so far Walmart has been very vague about defining the products besides groceries.

Company executives are hoping to convince residents Monday night that their proposal is a a good fit in the neighborhood.

If the retailer agrees to limit the size of its store, Alderman Tom Tunney says he will withdraw his amendment.

Walmart officials will meet with Lakeview residents to discuss the proposed store Monday night at the Wellington Avenue United Church, 615 W. Wellington Ave.