Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the new Whole Foods store, slated to open in 2016, will help bring fresh food to the city's food deserts, which includes Englewood.
"This is just one piece of an entire economic strategy to bring Englewood and fully embrace it as part of the city," Mayor Emanuel said.
The mayor said the Whole Foods announcement was not a response a Chicago Tribune report that Emanuel's 2011 campaign promise to end city food deserts was falling short. He insisted the newspaper article had nothing to do with it.
"JoAnn, when we talked about this 14 months ago, did the Tribune ever come up? No. Did I ever talk about the Tribune in our five or six meetings?" Mayor Emanuel said.
The mayor was talking to Chicago Alderman JoAnn Thompson. She said that with the new Whole Foods store, the mayor gained political points in her economically-distressed 16th Ward.
"I think that it helps that he's really trying," Ald. Thompson said. "When Whole Foods comes, I'm sure there's a lot of retail that's going to come to the area as well."
City officials hope the Whole Foods store will be a catalyst for further development in the Englewood neighborhood.
Whole Foods, known for its organic produce and higher prices, will not open in Englewood until 2016. That's a year after Emanuel stands for re-election in 2015.
Neighborhood activists like Darryl Smith say they weren't told about the Whole Foods store- and say they want a less expensive store to open in that site.
"The mayor did not score, not one point over here today," Darryl Smith, Englewood Political Task Force, said. "We have 5,000 signatures from the community that wanted a Super Walmart there."
However, the committee that worked on negotiations with Whole Foods said they are confident that affordable items will be on the shelves- and Englewood residents won't be priced out of the store.
Meanwhile, the mayor said the success of his food desert strategy cannot be measured by a snapshot at any given moment.
Whole Foods promises to bring 100 jobs to Englewood by 2016, but says its presence will be felt in the South Side neighborhood sooner than that.
"The commitment begins now. The movement begins now. So you're going to start to see action even though it will take a bit to get the store actually opened," Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb said.