CHICAGO — The Chicago City Council has unanimously approved a zoning change that will allow Walmart to build its second store within the city and perhaps many more to follow.
The Chicago City Council has unanimously approved a zoning change that will allow Walmart to build its second store within the city and perhaps many more to follow.
The Council approved a 145,000 square-foot store that will be located at Pullman Park, a multiuse development on the far South Side that will include residences, a recreation center and other big-box retailers. The area currently is described as one of Chicago’s under-stored "food deserts." The store is scheduled to open in early 2012.
Although the vote was unanimous, a number of Council members (called Aldermen) voiced concerns about the retailer. Alderman Ed Smith, for instance, pointed out that the starting wage Walmart will offer, $8.75 per hour (for a 30-hour work week), enables a worker to gross less in a year than Walmart president and chief executive officer Mike Duke grosses in an hour.
Nonetheless, opposition from a key union group, the Chicago Federation of Labor, apparently waned even though Walmart maintains no deal was struck with the unions. The retailer did, however, agree to hire union workers to build its stores in the city.
Ultimately, a pressing need for jobs and tax revenues overcame reservations over Walmart’s business practices. "We have heard loud and clear from the constituents how desperately they want and need this," said Alderman Mary Ann Smith. "Who are we to deny a community these jobs?"
Hank Mullaney, executive vice president and president of the Walmart North region of Walmart U.S., called the approval a victory for the residents of Chicago’s South Side. He also suggested the process in Chicago may provide the retailer a blueprint for expansion in other urban markets.
"With each new store that opens here and every new job created, Chicago moves one step closer towards returning the city to better economic times while also serving as a successful model for other cities across the country that face similar challenges," he said in a statement.