In the business-saturated neighborhood of Lakeview, there is an overwhelming 70 percent resistance to a WalMart expansion. The popular North Side neighborhood not only birthed Boystown, but half of the residents are young women -- two groups the corporation has notoriously mistreated. So why does WalMart want in?
At the busy three-street intersection of Chicago's North Clark Street, West
Diversey Parkway and North Broadway lies the border between two
business-saturated North Side neighborhoods, with Lakeview to the north
and Lincoln Park to the south. It is at a building development on this
corner that WalMart is hoping to try out it’s urban concept branded as
“WalMart Market.” On Thursday, neighborhood residents came out to rally
against the retail behemoth’s plan and let their feelings be known with
these feisty words: “Over my dead body.” Facing this hostile resistance,
along with an overwhelming 70 percent of residents polled who don’t
support the store -- you have to wonder, why does WalMart want in?
The WalMart team has touted that 70-some jobs that will be created if the proposed 31,000-square-foot store at 2840 N. Broadway comes to fruition, but organizers at the rally aren’t on board. The company’s anti-union history and corporate greed, they say, is not to be forgotten. Chicago Jobs with Justice’s Susan Hurley said WalMart’s well-documented tax evasion schemes, from paying taxes to themselves to getting rebates on sale taxes, save them from over $400 million in taxes each year, meaning local taxpayers have to foot the bill. “We cannot afford to subsidize companies like WalMart. We literally can’t afford WalMart. And that doesn’t even start to talk about the cost associated with subsidizing their work force, who often qualify for food stamps or Medicaid, or even subsidized housing because of the low income,” Hurley told the crowd. “We can’t afford to have a neighbor like WalMart. When they pay less, we all pay more.”
An impassioned Bruce Alan Beal also took a closer look at who might get those jobs by delving into the
local demographics. He said 58 percent of his fellow Lakeview
neighborhood residents are young adult women. Another significant group
in this popular North Side neighborhood is the GLBT community, who 30
years ago settled in to create the Boystown strip and helped turn
Lakeview into one of the most livable parts of the city. Both groups,
Beal said, are notoriously mistreated by Walmart. “I can’t imagine my
young women neighbors getting jobs [at this new WalMart],” Beal said.
Beal wanted to clarify that he isn’t affiliated with any union groups, but said he has seen, first-hand, the devastating effect the big-box retail store could have on the quaint shops that currently line the streets of Lakeview. He was so enraged upon hearing the news that he started a Facebook Group called “Stop the Lakeview/Lincoln Park Walmart” for a place to vent. The group, which got over a hundred new members overnight following a heated meeting last week, now has 868 members.
the same time Beal spoke, a woman walked by to yell in support of the
store, saying she’s got to head to the suburbs so she can shop at a
WalMart. Beal, unfazed, dared anyone to walk around the area to do a
random poll. A market researcher himself, Beal started the online survey that found at least 70 percent of residents polled opposed the new store. A “No Walmart in Lakeview” petition also has over 1,000
signatures already. WalMart has contended in the past that they will not
enter where they are not wanted, but a request for comment on the
public push-back was not immediately answered. A call was also not
returned by Mid-America Real Estate Group, the management company for the Broadway Street building the retail giant has set its sights on.
As for the effect WalMart would have on local businesses, Mark Thomas, the owner of The Alley store at North Clark Street and West Belmont Avenue, broke it down this simply: “DSW went into Belmont and Clark --five small shoe stores closed up. Barbara’s Books used to be directly across the street and a block down, Barnes and Noble and Borders came --there is no Barbara’s Bookstore anymore.”
Here's more about how the plan could affect other stores in the area:
Walmart is also interested in setting up shop in River North, another neighborhood in which residents are less than thrilled to hear such news.