Lakeview Wal-Mart Update: Residents Raise Voices. Tunney's Silence Speaks Volumes

By Chuck Sudo in News on Apr 13, 2011 7:46PM

2011_4_13_Lakeview_walmart_plan.jpg
Floor plan for the proposed Lakeview Wal-Mart. (From the "Stop the Lakeview/Lincoln Park WalMart Facebook page).

So how did Wal-Mart's meeting with concerned Lakeview residents Monday night go? About as well as can be expected.

Wal-Mart presented its plans for the retail space at Broadway and Surf (see above) - proposed "neighborhood market" focusing mainly on groceries and some "limited" general merchandise as dictated by the neighborhood's needs. Wal-Mart senior manager of public affairs John Bisio said the proposed store would occupy the shuttered PetSmart and the Cost Plus World Market, which, according to Mid-America Real Estate Group principal Dick Spinnell (Mid-America Real Estate manages the property), is not doing well at the location and may have to close whether Wal-Mart plants an anchor there or not.

Bisio said that Wal-Mart is focusing on the neighborhood market because their research indicates that part of Lakeview needs a grocery. Neighborhood residents argued everything from their fears Wal-Mart would ruin the character of the neighborhood; possible expansion into adjoining lots, and Wal-Mart's often reported labor and wage practices.

But one person at the meeting remained curiously quiet: 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney. Bruce Alan Beal, who formed the "Stop the Lakeview/Lincoln Park Wal-Mart" facebook page, thinks that Tunney hasn't signed off on Wal-Mart coming to Lakeview yet and supports the downzoning of the Broadway and Surf property if it means no Wal-Mart.

That's pretzel logic. The proposed downzoning will make it easier for a major retailer like Wal-Mart to gain entry by tailoring the floor plan proposal to fit the zoning. Crain's Greg Hinz thinks that Tunney's silence speaks volumes. Hinz thinks it's a done deal:

David Winner, a neighborhood activist then running an uphill race for alderman against Mr. Tunney, seized on the issue like a drowning swimmer reaches for a life raft. He predicted the store would worsen problems with traffic and empty storefronts and warned that it would suburbanize the ward.

In other words, he gave every indication of turning the matter into a big campaign issue.

Mr. Tunney had a differing reaction. He insisted no one had talked to him and posted on his website a statement from Wal-Mart denying it had signed a letter of intent — though not denying its interest in the site.

Mr. Tunney kept suggesting that all of this was just talk. The issue deflated, Mr. Winner went away and Mr. Tunney was re-elected without opposition.

But now that all the elections are over, the Lakeview Wal-Mart is back. Quelle surprise!

Now Lakeview residents opposed to a Wal-Mart are faced with a unique conundrum. Should they also boycott Ann Sather's?