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Rogers Park Wal-Mart ‘Story’ An April Fools’ Joke

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Wal-Mart (file; Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Wal-Mart (file; Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Wal-Mart has confirmed plans for six new stores of varying sizes on the South and Southwest sides and in the West Loop, and a fierce debate is still raging about a possible new store in the East Lakeview neighborhood.

But has Wal-Mart now struck a deal for a new store in Rogers Park, despite the fact that the neighborhood’s alderman was once the sponsor of an ordinance in direct opposition to the retailer?

Despite what a report on the community Web site RogersPark.com claims, the answer is actually no. The story, posted Thursday, was an April Fools’ joke.

RogersPark.com posted a story Thursday, claiming Ald. Joe Moore (49th) had confirmed a deal had been struck to bring a 10,000 square-foot, three-story Wal-Mart store to the intersection of Greenview and Jarvis avenues. The report said the new store would be LEED-certified for meeting environmental standards, and would be a “benchmark for green retail.”

“Given the alderman’s past fight to keep Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, from entering the city on the grounds that Wal-Mart drives independently owned retailers out of business and does not provide workers with a living wage, we were just a little surprised,” the report said.

In 2006, Moore was the chief sponsor of the Big-Box Living Wage Ordinance, which would have required big-box retailers to provide a wage of $10 per hour plus $3 in benefits. The City Council approved the ordinance, but Mayor Richard M. Daley vetoed it.

But the story claimed Moore said it had not been his idea, but the result of the ward’s participatory budgeting process, in which Moore allows neighborhood residents to vote on how to spend $1 million in tax funds allocated to his ward every year.

Moore is quoted in the article as saying, “The economy is still in trouble, and the people of the 49th ward want and need jobs,” and that while a Wal-Mart entering his ward might come as a shock, “the people decide, not me.”

But in reality, Moore said no such things. His office confirmed Friday afternoon that the story was an April Fool’s joke.

Moore and his staff took the report in good humor.

“We’ve got a sense of humor,” said Michael Land, a staff assistant to Moore. “The alderman gave me a heads up about it, and he chuckled.”

In reality, the projects eligible for community voting in the participatory budgeting process are limited to a short list. The list includes street and sidewalk improvements, security cameras, community gardens, and artistic murals, among others.

Wal-Mart expansion remains a serious issue elsewhere in the city.

Having received the green light last year to expand within the city limits after a compromise was reached with labor unions, Wal-Mart has announced plans for six new stores. They include two Superstores, at 83rd Street and Stewart Avenue and at 111th Street and the Bishop Ford Freeway; two mid-sized Neighborhood Markets at 76th Street and Ashland Avenue and in the Presidential Towers, 555 W. Madison St.; and convenience store-style Wal-Mart Express stores at 71st Street and Western Avenue, and in the same shopping center as one of the Supercenters at 83rd Street and Holland Road.

But a possible plans for a Neighborhood Market store in the East Lakeview neighborhood have drawn outrage among neighbors in that north lakefront community. Wal-Mart representatives recently met with Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) and members of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce about a possible new store in the Broadway at Surf retail complex, just north of the busy intersection of Clark Street, Broadway and Diversey Parkway.

The chamber has come out against the store, and several local small business owners have posted signs in their windows reading, “Wal-Mart: Not in My Neighborhood.” More recently, neighbors have circulated a petition against a Wal-Mart moving into the community, and activity has picked up on the Facebook group, “Stop the Lakeview/Lincoln Park Wal-Mart,” which began in December.

Wal-Mart has declined to comment directly on the East Lakeview store. Last week, spokesman Steve Restivo said the retailer has “not announced any plans” for a store in the neighborhood, “but (we) continue to evaluate opportunities across the city – via stores small and large – to create jobs and expand access to affordable, healthy food.”

Wal-Mart representatives are expected to appear at a meeting of the South East Lake View Neighbors Association at 7 p.m. April 11 at the Wellington Avenue Church, 615 W. Wellington Ave.

Adam Harrington, cbschicago.com

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