I know that everyone has read the fairy tale about Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Well I have a story to tell. I hope it is a “fairy” tale and not a “reality” tale, but you be the judge. The role of Goldilocks will be played by Wal-Mart. And remember in the Three Bears how one bed was “too big”, the other bed was “too small” and then finally the last bed was “just right”? Well in this tale of Wal-Mart and the Three Parcels, we’ll look at the land that Wal-Mart got to pick from as they planned their first store in Chicago, and how they came to pick the spot that was “just right”.
The first lot Wal-Mart was offered is the distribution center at Cicero and Division. That parcel of land is two city blocks long and a city block wide. When offered that parcel of land, Wal-Mart said, “No, that parcel isn’t just right.” Then Wal-Mart was offered the second parcel of land at North Avenue and Kostner. That huge parcel is again about two blocks long and two blocks wide. And guess what? Again Wal-Mart said, “No, that parcel isn’t just right.”
Well there was only one spot left. It was the smallest of the three. It has Grand Avenue on the north and North Avenue on the south. To the east are the railroad tracks and to the west, well to the west are the homes on both north Keating and the homes and businesses on north Cicero. These are homes that people live in; Businesses where people work. Homes that people have spent money to fix up or have held on to; Businesses where people are earning a living. So when Wal-Mart was shown the smallest lot with homes in front, businesses in front and on both sides, they leaped for joy and shouted “This parcel is ‘JUST RIGHT.'” Huh?
Now we all remember the big huge fight that went on at City Hall as those that wanted Wal-Mart and those that didn’t battled it out. I even attended the meeting and spoke with Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) and told her Wal-Mart had overpaid $8 million for the property. So there was room before the zoning change to get leverage out of them.
As we all know, the zoning change was made without any concessions from Wal-Mart. Yes, they made some oral promises, but when you slither for a living, no one should be surprised when you coil up and bite. Many people don’t know that the store is about 80 percent complete. That’s because from North Avenue, you drive right past it and just see the wood fence.
So I want you to take a journey using Grand Avenue. Here are the instructions: Take Grand to Kilpatrick. Then turn south and follow the alley looking at the store as you drive. As you admire how pretty it is, look to your right and see all the garage doors. But wait. If you’re in the alley and you can see the front of the store that means it faces the alley. Is Wal-Mart going to build a brick wall so that when leaving their store you are not viewing all the antics that can go on in an alley?
Also note that this is not a little Wal-Mart. The store is huge. So huge that the first thing that came to my mind was: where will the people park? Now Wal-Mart is saying it will have between 350-500 jobs. So, where will the employees park? And better yet, where will the hundreds of people who are anxiously awaiting the opening of Wal-Mart going to park?
Yes, WHERE will the people park? WHERE? WHERE? WHERE WILL ALL THE PEOPLE PARK WHO COME TO THE ONLY WAL-MART STORE IN THE ENTIRE CITY OF CHICAGO???
Will they park in front of those garages on north Keating and block the alley so that folks can’t get out of their garages. Will the traffic on Grand Avenue, North Avenue and Cicero come to a standstill as all of Chicago tries to park in the 220 parking spaces the Wal-Mart manager told me he has for the store? Will the homeowners in the surrounding community now have cars parked on their streets while people shop at the only Wal-Mart in the entire city of Chicago?
Now, as I told you to begin with, Wal-Mart picked the “just right” spot. They also designed their store to face in the “Just Right” direction. Now all they need is everything else to go “just right”. That means that as everyone who is inconvenienced by the new store will complain -and they will complain “just right” – they will be mad. They will be angry. They won’t care.
So I want to make a prediction. I predict that Wal-Mart will need at least 2000 more parking spaces. To solve the problem, the answer will be to take the property of those homeowners and businesses via eminent domain (or Emma Mitts Domain). The alderman will have tears in her eyes as she tells those homeowners that she didn’t have a choice. She has to do what the people want to again make everything “just right”. Those homeowners will get pennies for their property, based on eminent domain, rather than “get paid” the money they should get.
I spoke to a homeowner who lives in front of the new store before writing this column. I told him my prediction. He told me he would take $225,000 for his house. I told him since Wal-Mart needs his property to make the million dollars or more a day they are suppose to make, wouldn’t something like $600,000 be “just right” instead? He smiled.
So if my prediction comes true, we as a community need to stand up for those neighbors and force Wal-Mart to pay them the kind of money that each one of those homeowners feel is “just right” for them as well.