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Wal-Mart Signs Lease For River North Location

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Wal-Mart In River North?

Wal-Mart is reportedly targeting the old Pearl Art Supply store on Chicago Avenue for an Express outlet. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Wal-Mart has officially signed a lease to take over the old Pearl art supply store in River North.

The retailer will take over the 14,300 square-foot vacant space at 225 W. Chicago Ave., under the Chicago/Franklin Brown Line ‘L’ stop, for a small-scale Wal-Mart Express store, according to multiple published reports late last week.

The Pearl Art Supply store closed at the end of January 2010, and the space has been vacant since.

Rumors of a possible Wal-Mart store at the location date back several months. Back in April, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) expressed objections to the planned Wal-Mart store, out of concerns for traffic and parking.

The alderman offered to help find them another more suitable location close to downtown, Crain’s Chicago Business reported at the time.

Another planned store has drawn far more heated opposition, though the controversy has quieted down in recent months.

That store, an approximately 30,000 square-foot Neighborhood Market, is planned for the Broadway at Surf retail complex in the East Lakeview neighborhood. It would take over two vacant storefronts once occupied by a PetSmart and a Wolf Camera, and sweep out a Cost Plus World Market store that remains open.

For several months earlier this year, neighbors protested against the proposed store, saying it would decimate the many locally-owned small businesses along Broadway and other nearby commercial strips, and permanently change the character of the neighborhood for worse. There were also concerns that Wal-Mart might expand to the entire building.

But opposition died down after Wal-Mart agreed to a “restrictive covenant,” which would legally limit the store to 33,395 square feet – actually slightly more space than the retailer is planning to take, so as to allow for small expansions for “administrative” purposes. If Wal-Mart elects to expand in violation of the agreement, the restrictive covenant allows the community to take the retailer to court to stop the expansion.

A small group opposing the Wal-Mart remains active on Facebook. There have been no reports of a lease being finalized at the site, but if a lease is signed, the store will open in the spring of 2012.

A Facebook group also remains active against the opening of a Wal-Mart in the Logan Square neighborhood. Last month, Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st) said he had come out against an interest from Wal-Mart to open a store in the old Dearborn Wholesale Grocery building at 2274 N. Milwaukee Ave., saying it did not match his vision for the strip.

Wal-Mart also has confirmed and finalized plans for new Chicago stores at six other locations. These include Supercenters at 111th Street and the Bishop Ford Freeway and at 83rd Street and Stewart Avenue; mid-size Neighborhood Market stores 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.

Currently, the only Wal-Mart in operation within the city limits is located at North and Kilpatrick avenues on the city’s West Side.

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