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Wal-Mart Flap Enters Aldermanic Campaign

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Chicago Wal-Mart Supercenter

Chicago’s first and, to date, only Wal-Mart store opened in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side in 2006. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The controversy over a proposed Wal-Mart store in the East Lakeview neighborhood has now made it into the aldermanic campaign for the area.

David Winner, owner of the East Lakeview-based DSW Business Consultants Ltd., is challenging Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) in the February race.

Last week, Winner posted on his Facebook page that he was “very concerned” about the possibility of a Wal-Mart coming to a vacant 30,000 square-foot space in the Broadway at Surf shopping complex, at 2840 N. Broadway just north of the busy Clark Street-Broadway-Diversey Parkway intersection.

“Besides adding to congestion to an already congested area, this may be the breaking point in what we know as the small ‘mom and pop’ shops along Broadway and Diversey,” Winner wrote. “Do we want to have empty storefronts along Broadway and Diversey? Empty stores bring undesirables into the neighborhood, etc.”

On Friday, Winner also demanded that the incumbent Tunney block Wal-Mart from opening the East Lakeview store, on the grounds that Wal-Mart will “come down and close our small businesses,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The website for the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce also displays a message on its website urging residents to fight against the Wal-Mart plan.

“For every Walmart that opens, 25 percent of small businesses close. For every job created by Walmart, the community loses one employee,” the chamber says. “Walmart does not fit the fabric of our community.”

Separately, a Facebook group, “Stop the Lakeview/Lincoln Park Wal-Mart,” had nearly 600 members as of Monday morning.

Tunney has not taken a pro or con position on the Wal-Mart.

The alderman said in a statement on his website last week that he has not seen any conceptual plans for a Wal-Mart in the Broadway at Surf, but if plans are released, they will be “vetted through a rigorous community process.”

“As a small business owner, I understand the impact any big-box retailer would have on our neighborhood,” Tunney said in the statement. “We will work together, residents and businesses, to continue to make our community a better place to live, raise a family, shop and own a business.”

Community residents plan to discuss the Wal-Mart proposal at a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, at the Wellington Avenue Church, 615 W. Wellington Ave.

The Wal-Mart would be a Neighborhood Market store, focusing on groceries and a limited general merchandise selection, reports said. It would take over a three-story space formerly occupied by a PetSmart in the Broadway at Surf complex, which is currently anchored by a Bed, Bath and Beyond, a T.J. Maxx and a Cost Plus World Market.

In addition to the three anchor stores, the Broadway at Surf also houses a Sprint store and a Palm Beach Tan salon. But it has seen several vacancies in recent years. In addition to the former PetSmart, a Wolf Camera store, a Hollywood Video store, and the Maui Wowi Hawaiian coffee and smoothie café, all sit vacant.

The complex takes up nearly a full block on the west side of Broadway, between Surf Street and the alley next to the Borders bookstore just north of Diversey. It opened in 1997 after developers razed all the buildings on the once-seedy block.

Currently, there is only one Wal-Mart store in the city, at North and Kilpatrick avenues on the West Side. Two others are set to open in 2012, in the Pullman Park development at 111th Street and the Bishop Ford Freeway, and at 83rd Street and Stewart Avenue in the Chatham neighborhood.

After the West Side store opened in 2006, expansion plans were put on hold when the City Council passed an ordinance that required big-box retailers to pay a minimum of $10 per hour and $3 hourly in benefits. Mayor Richard M. Daley vetoed the ordinance not long after it was passed.

Wal-Mart finally got the green light for expansion when it reached a deal with labor unions to set starting wages at $8.75 per hour, which is 50 cents less than unions had wanted.

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