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Mayor says Walmart silent about reopening looted stores

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Walmart remains silent about reopening its Chatham and Bronzeville store after they were looted two weeks during the George Floyd protests.

Lightfoot made the statement June 10 during a conference call with Chicago’s ethnic press.

“I haven’t heard back from Walmart about them reopening their stores,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot said Jewel Osco was committed to reopening all of their damaged stores in Chicago. Many of those stores were already up and running June 10. As of Monday, June 15, workers were still preparing to reopen the Jewel Osco store on 75th and Stony Island. That store suffered heavy damage from looters who cleared many of its shelves.

Several looted Walgreens stores remain closed and the chain has not said whether they will be reopened.

Walmart remains a concern because it would be another loss for neighborhoods after Target closed its Chatham location. In addition to fewer shopping options there would be a loss of jobs that were filled primarily by residents in the area. Other businesses that remain closed after they were heavily looted are the Nike store, the Bank of America and the Chase branch on 83rd Street, just yards away from the Walmart.

The Walmart supercenter store at 8331 S. Stewart in Chatham opened in 2012 after an eight-year effort to bring the chain to the struggling neighborhood. At the time of its opening, the store employed 350 people.

“This Wal-Mart is a win-win-win – a win for the local economy, a win for local job creation, and a win for the Chicagoans who now have access to a full selection of groceries and fresh food in Chatham,” said then Mayor Rahm Emanuel at its grand opening. “I am committed to driving economic growth and opportunity in our neighborhoods, and will continue to seek opportunities for Chicagoans to find good jobs and advance their communities.”

The 157,000-sq. ft. store featured a full line of groceries as well as a bakery, a delicatessen, a frozen food section and meat, dairy and fresh produce sections. The store also included a pharmacy, apparel and accessories, sporting goods, electronics, home goods, lawn and garden, fine jewelry and health and beauty. Last Saturday during a visit by a Crusader reporter, the store remained boarded up and the front entrances to its empty parking lot were blocked by barriers and sanitation trucks.

It took 10 years for community leaders to persuade Walmart to open its neighborhood market in Bronzeville on 47th Street and Cottage Grove. That store was part of the $46 million Shops and Lofts at 47 project that replaced a former liquor store and liquor warehouse. The development received $45 million in public financing and loans. Walmart and neighboring shops remain boarded and closed.

Walmart was among many stores that did not receive police protection as looters raided the shelves and vandalized cash registers.

Last Saturday, several volunteers painted colorful images on the plywood at Walmart’s 47th Street store to encourage the chain to reopen the store. A disc jockey was on hand playing the latest tunes.

About a mile east in Hyde Park, the Ross discount store reopened and was humming with shoppers, but the Binney’s Beverage Depot, Chase Bank branch and Walgreens were still closed after suffering heavy damage.

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