Walmart Poised for Chicago Building Boom

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. reportedly is prepared to build dozens of stores in Chicago if city officials back off from their demand that the retailer pay a “living wage” of at least $11.03 an hour.

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley met privately with executives of the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant last weekend while attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Oklahoma City, and came away encouraged about a Walmart expansion after a six-year stalemate between the retailer and Chicago aldermen over the wage issue, according to local press reports.

After previously considering plans to construct five supercenters in inner-city “food deserts” starving for shopping choices, Walmart now is looking to build numerous large and small Chicago stores.

“We’ve been very open about the fact that we want to operate more stores in Chicago. I can’t speak to the number,” Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo said. “We operate different formats all over the world and, in every market where we do business, we’re willing to do whatever it takes to be closer to our customers. Chicago is no different.”

Refusing to reveal the number of proposed stores, Daley said he hopes the deal will be big enough that labor unions’ allies on the city council will be dissuaded from protesting the plan, according to local press reports.

The groundwork for this breakthrough reportedly was laid last month during a meeting between five Walmart executives and five union leaders. The stalemate had forced the city zoning committee to twice postpone votes on Chicago’s second Walmart, in the Pullman Park development on the city’s South Side. Another meeting is scheduled for next week.

An unnamed alderman predicted the Pullman Park vote would be “a tie at best” without a last-minute agreement on wages, according to local press reports. “The closer it gets to an election, the more reluctant aldermen will be to vote for something that gets the unions mad at them,” the alderman said.
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