Chatham residents lay bricks for new Walmart

July 25, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The retail giant fought a long hard battle to bring stores to the city. The new store at 83rd and Stewart is one of nine now planned for Chicago.

Walmart's spokesperson says its nine stores that are in the works right now will be joined by many others, including Walmart Express stores such as the one right across the parking lot from the construction site of the new Chatham supercenter.

That will eventually bring a total, Walmart says, of about 10,000 jobs to the city, and for communities like Chatham, it will serve as an oasis in what some call a food desert.

Supporters say it has been a long time in coming.

"It has been eight years," said 21st Ward Alderman Howard Brookins. "I never thought when I took on this fight that it would be so big, and it would be so long, and it would have so many implications."

Brookins says the fight is apparently over.

Several of the exterior walls are already up and the site was abuzz Monday with construction traffic as crews worked to build the city's second Walmart Supercenter location. That's why, instead of a groundbreaking, they did a bricklaying ceremony.

Brookins says he believes the store will be an economic engine for the Chatham community, which he says is sorely lacking in economic development. Walmart promises 400 employees at the store, not to mention the construction jobs needed to build the structure.

Only recently did Walmart and its supporters reach an agreement with opponents -- led by organized labor -- to allow the company to fully enter the Chicago market. The Chatham store is the second of nine stores in the works right now, with several more planned down the line.

"With each new store that opens here and every new job created, Chicago moves one step closer to returning the city to economic prosperity," said Walmart Vice President Julie Murphy.

The Chatham Walmart Express is about 10,000 square feet. It is a smaller, scaled down, convenience-store version of a full Walmart. It is scheduled to open on Wednesday. The Walmart Supercenter across the street is scheduled to open sometime next spring.

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