Zoning Committee Prepares to Vote on City's Second Walmart

By Lauren Jiggetts and BJ Lutz
|  Wednesday, May 5, 2010  |  Updated 2:11 PM CDT
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Chicago's Zoning Committee will vote Wednesday on whether to allow a Walmart and a mixed use development to rise up on an empty lot in the city's Pullman neighborhood.

On the one hand, it's believed such a development, proposed for the old Ryerson Steel Plant at 111th Street and the Bishop Ford, would be an assett to the community.

"This won't just help the ninth ward," said Ald. Anthony Beale.  "This is going to help the city of Chicago.  The tax revenue, the retail revenue that's going to be generated from this, the jobs that are going to be created from this, we're talking about 780 part-time union jobs to build it over 12 years."

But others fear the city's first Walmart "Supercenter" would drive down wages for union workers at other supermarkets.  And they say that many of the benefits promised by the retailer rarely materialize. 

A study from the University of Illinois and Loyola University (.pdf) found that a Walmart store that opened in the Austin neighborhood four years ago failed to expand employment opportunities. 

In fact, stores nearby were more likely to go out of business, resulting in a loss of about 300 full-time jobs. 

"What we're seeing here is that placing a Walmart in an urban setting is basically a wash in terms of sales revenue for the city and jobs for local residents," the study's co-author, David Merriman, said in January.

Still, some say that for the repressed, food-desert that is Pullman, anything that brings jobs to the area is something to be looked at.

"If the Walmart was to come to this area and hire the residents of the area, it would be terrific," said Kenneth Hood, who has lived in the area since 1973.

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