Discussion Heats Up About East Lakeview Wal-Mart

CHICAGO (CBS) — Discussion of a possible Wal-Mart in East Lakeview quieted down for a few months, after Wal-Mart dismissed as false the rumors that they had signed a lease or letter of intent in the neighborhood.

That all changed at a community meeting Monday night.

At the meeting, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said he had met with representatives of Wal-Mart in the time since the rumors sprang up. Representatives of Mid-America Real Estate Group, which manages the Broadway at Surf retail complex where the rumored Wal-Mart was to be located, also said they had met with the retail giant.

In December, reports in Crain’s Chicago Business and the Chicago Sun-Times said Wal-Mart had filed a letter of intent for space in the Broadway at Surf complex, in the 2800 block of North Broadway, and that a lease had been executed. The rumored Wal-Mart was to be a 30,000 square-foot Neighborhood Market focusing on groceries and limited general merchandise.

But at a December community meeting, Tunney read a statement saying Wal-Mart had not signed a lease or letter of intent at the Broadway at Surf building. The retailer only said it was evaluating “a number of potential opportunities.”

In the time since then, a Facebook group dedicated to fighting the Wal-Mart has remained active with more than 600 members, but otherwise talk of a possible Wal-Mart quieted.

But Tunney said about 10 days ago, he met with representatives of Wal-Mart.

“I think that if there is a motivation for them to come into our community, they will be, like any other retailer, welcomed under the zoning requirements that are there,” Tunney said.

The purpose of the Monday night meeting was not to discuss Wal-Mart, but to talk about a proposed zoning change in the neighborhood that would affect the Broadway at Surf building. In January, Tunney filed a proposed zoning change that would downzone the east side of Clark Street and the west side of Broadway between Surf Street and Diversey Parkway.

The proposal calls for changing the zoning from B3-2 and B3-3 community shopping districts – which allow for stores of up to 75,000 square feet – to B1-2, which limits the size of any business to 25,000 square feet. The purpose is to bring the blocks into conformity with the building that now houses a soon-to-close Borders bookstore at 2817 N. Clark St.

Tunney said the zoning change would not necessarily make any difference if Wal-Mart wanted to move into the building. In addition to two new Supercenters within the Chicago city limits, Wal-Mart has already announced plans for two other smaller stores – a 26,000 square-foot Neighborhood Market in the Presidential Towers, 555 W. Madison St., and a 10,000 square-foot Wal-Mart Express store at 83rd Street and Holland Road in Chatham – in the same shopping center as a planned Wal-Mart Supercenter.

But Tunney put the planned zoning change on hold for 30 days after the owners and managers of the Broadway at Surf objected to it. This led to renewed rumors about plans for a Wal-Mart, and questions about whether the retailer might be eyeing the property for a larger store.

At the meeting, Mid-America Real Estate principal Dick Spinell and attorney Rich Klawiter argued that downzoning the property was bad for business.

Klawiter said downzoning the Broadway at Surf would immediately devalue the property, and also pose problems for financing and refinancing of debt, particularly since two existing tenants – Bed, Bath and Beyond and T.J. Maxx – already occupy more than 25,000 square feet and thus would have to be grandfathered in as “nonconforming” establishments.

Furthermore, Klawiter said, the property owners would be subject to too many restrictions if the community wanted to see a specific retailer that might require more than 25,000 square feet. He added that the building managers could designate space for smaller retail on their own, but “the rezoning is a very large catch-all.”

Spinell added that a limit of 25,000 square feet for any new store would make it difficult to attract new retailers to the vacant spaces in the Broadway at Surf. In the past couple of years, a PetSmart, Hollywood Video, Wolf Camera and Maui Wowi Hawaiian coffee shop have all closed, and all of their spaces in the complex remain vacant. Attracting retailers to the vertically-oriented 135,000 square-foot building is difficult as it is, Spinell said.

Neither Klawiter nor Spinell mentioned Wal-Mart in their arguments against the downzoning, but neighborhood activist Bruce Alan Beal confronted them about the Wal-Mart during a question-and-answer session.

“I think what you’re really trying to do is sneak a Wal-Mart in here that might end up being larger than 25,000 square feet,” Beal said.

He asked Klawiter whether Mid-America had spoken with Wal-Mart, and whether it was true, as some neighborhood business owners had indicated, that confidentiality agreements had been signed that would forbid discussion of Wal-Mart’s intentions.

While the Mid-America representatives confirmed that the firm has had discussions with Wal-Mart, Klawiter said, “Wal-Mart has told us that we are not authorized to speak for them.”

Beal also raised questions about who actually owns of the property. Spinell said the building is owned by a pension fund managed by Invesco, an Atlanta-based investment management company. Mid-America is the leasing agent and property manager, but not the owner, Spinell said.

Spinell also said Mid-America has a “wish-list” of possible tenants in the building, among them a Nordstrom Rack, a Saks or a Forever 21.

The Broadway at Surf complex opened in 1997, following the demolition of an entire block that included the Times Square video arcade, the Broadway Girlies adult bookstore and peep show and the Paradise/Phoenix nightclub, among other businesses. In addition to the Bed, Bath and Beyond and T.J. Maxx, the Broadway at Surf is also occupied by a Cost Plus World Market, a Sprint Store and a Palm Beach Tan salon, as well as a Midwest Orthopaedics clinic.

Wal-Mart representatives are expected to attend a South East Lake View Neighbors meeting next month.

Adam Harrington, cbschicago.com

  • Bruce Alan Beal

    I will share more from last nights meeting later today ~ but several things became clear last night: 1) the property owners think our *community is nothing special*, 2) that we have no role is trying to influence what happens regarding that site 3) that they have been lying to us since January regrading a) their contact with Walmart, b) their role in managing the property for the owners, c) their larger future plans for the site. Mid-America clearly has ZERO respect for our community.

    Fortunately for we peasants in Lakeview, our local business and political leadership has been very proactive on this issue – but if we want to stop Walmart from coming to Lakeview ~ we, meaning everyone on this list and everyone we know, will have to speak up loudly in the next month.

  • Dan

    So Bruce it’s clear you don’t want a Walmart there, would a trendy Target be more to your liking? What’s the difference if they have 3 stores @ 25,000 sq ft each or 1 store @ 75,000 sq ft. They are all going to draw in people and traffic.

    Bruce would you prefer an indoor park with running tracks and a dog walking area instead?

    It’s retail in a retail area and it sound a lot better than the junk they tore down to build it. Fighting a retailer from moving into vacant space is like trying to block a bar or restaurant from opening in a vacant space a bit North of there on Halsted, why shouldn’t they move in?

  • Michelle

    What about the fact that it would open many jobs for the unemployed in our state? I think Walmart could employ more people than any other business… and not just teens and young adults but the elderly as well!

    • Bruce Alan Beal

      It is a proven fact that Walmart costs a community 1.4 jobs for every 1 that they claim to create. Additionally, the jobs they create are disproportionately sub-living wage, part-time, and without any benefits. These are just facts, well documented in the communities Walmart has already destroyed.

  • Bruce Alan Beal

    Having lived a community that where the local business community and social structure was virtually destroyed by a Superstore, I would rather not repeat that experience.

    There are a myriad of reasons to oppose Walmart in particular and high on this list as a member of this community is Walmarts absolutely offensive history on LGBT issues, womens rights, though that are many many other issues where the corporate values of Walmart are beneath the standards of this community. From a human rights standpoint, Walmart is opposed to everything beautiful, and unique for which the Lakeview Community stands.

    Just imagine our huge Pride Parade having to march right past the front door of the most homophobic corporation in the country! It makes my skin crawl ~ and I also do not think they will be in business long of they do come here ~ for the same reasons..

    • Question

      It’s clear what your agenda is. Would you feel any different IF walmart’s CEO was gay, but they still ran their buisiness the same way?? I thought so!

      • Bruce Alan Beal

        You do not know what my *agenda* is, since you do not know me. The horrific Walmart record on LGBT rights(which it sounds like you are okay with) is just one of a host of ways that the Walmart corporate *valves* are out of sync with the values of this community.

  • Steve

    I think that you are missing one big, very glaring point in this article: Attracting retailers to the vertically-oriented 135,000 square-foot building is difficult as it is, Spinell said.

    That statement alone means that it’s worth seriously looking at any and all possibilities for that building. Would you REALLY prefer to see an empty space or have Wal-Mart come in there?

    Maybe you should get off your butt and rent the space and put in a successful business. As it stands, I say bring Wal-Mart in. Bring Target. Bring some big-box store(s) that are willing and able to fund the upkeep and management of the buildings. Otherwise, plow them down and put in a park but then your tax dollars are going to need to be used to keep that up.

    BTW — just how much did you spend in the Maui Wowi Hawaiian coffee shop since whatever it was, it was not enough to make it successful and stayed open.

  • J-Chi

    We don’t need a Walmart in Lakeview. That area can’t support the extra car and truck traffic that a Walmart would generate. A Walmart would most like drive out small business owners in the area which is what makes Lakeview great.

    As for jobs Walmart works there people maybe 32 hours per week and doesn’t even pay a living wage. I haven’t seen any homes or apartments in Lakeview that could be affordable or even obtainable by someone making barely over minimum wage.

    Say no to Walmart in Lakeview and anywhere else on the North Side of Chicago

  • http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/03/15/alderman-hopes-for-new-grocery-at-dominicks-site/ Alderman Hopes For New Grocery At Dominick’s Site « CBS Chicago

    […] a community meeting dominated by a discussion of a major zoning change farther south on Broadway and the possibility of …, Tunney also addressed the vast empty lot at 3012 N. Broadway, which has been vacant since a […]

  • http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/03/16/wal-mart-to-announce-plans-for-more-chicago-stores/ Wal-Mart To Announce Plans For More Chicago Stores « CBS Chicago

    […] The news comes as another possible plan for a Wal-Mart in the city is meeting with stiff resistance … […]

  • http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/03/17/daley-still-upset-about-wal-mart-resistance/ Daley Still Upset About Wal-Mart Resistance « CBS Chicago

    […] be coming to the Broadway at Surf retail complex on Broadway in East Lakeview. <a href="At a heated community meeting this week, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) and real estate group representative… Print Share […]

  • Bert Thompson

    East Lakeview needs another grocery store, but it does NOT need Wal*mart. Broadway is too narrow for additional traffic, especially with the way it feeds into Clark at Diversey, always backed up. At various times, from the 1970s into the 1980s, there were three popular gay nightclubs in the area — Broadway Ltd., Paradise, and Cheeks — which were not “junk” but tax-paying businesses & community gathering places; they attracted car traffic at night, when other businesses were closed, and they failed to endure in part because the area was & is short on parking. After the Broadway/Surf building went up in 1997, on the former site of Paradise, the Century Centre, which had been open & viable since 1977, started to lose stores; it’s now sustained by the theatres & the gym. It’s clear that there was way too much retail capacity in the area even before the crash; now there are many more vacancies (in the Century, the Bwy/Surf, the Barnes&Noble site, the Borders, the Pointe at Clark & Halsted, etc.). Any plan for any new retail in SE Lakeview must begin with additional affordable parking.

  • Bruce Alan Beal
  • http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/03/23/lakeview-east-chamber-awaits-plans-from-wal-mart/ Lakeview East Chamber Awaits Plans From Wal-Mart « CBS Chicago

    […] That changed just last week, when Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said at a meeting of the South East Lake View Neighbors Association that he had met with Wal-Mart representatives. Meanwhile, the owners of the Broadway at Surf building are resisting a proposed zoning change that would limit new stores on the west side of the 2800 block of North Broadway, and the east side of the 2800 block of North Clark Street, to a maximum of 25,000 square feet. […]

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live