Walmart to reopen looted stores after weeks of silence

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WORKERS TAKE A break after planting new shrubs and cleaning the landscape in the parking lot of the Walmart on 47th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue in Bronzeville.

Retailer makes a $35-50 million investment to reopen all stores throughout city with additional community benefits

By Crusader Staff Report

After weeks of silence, Walmart will reopen its stores that were looted during the George Floyd protests, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced June 26 in a press release.

Walmart’s stores in Austin, Bronzeville, Chatham and Pullman were closed after they were damaged from heavy looting during the weekend of May 29. Jewel-Osco reopened all its stores on the South and West sides after they suffered similar damage.

Walmart said while the Pullman store has already reopened, the other stores must undergo cleanup and construction. Walmart said it hopes to reopen its Neighborhood Market locations and the Hermosa Supercenter by the end of July. Walmart also said they plan to reopen the Chatham and Austin Supercenters by the end of 2020. Six other damaged Walmart stores on the North Side will be reopened, the retailer said.

In addition to reopening those stores, Walmart said it will create Walmart Health centers in Austin and Chatham that will provide local community members access to affordable health care, such as dental, counseling, lab services and urgent care.

The announcement ends weeks of silence from Walmart, who the mayor said in a June 10 teleconference did not get back to her on whether it would reopen its looted stores.

On June 13, several community volunteers painted colorful images on the plywood that covered the store windows at 47th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. The effort was part of a movement called “Bronzeville Resilience.”

On Friday, June 26, a Crusader reporter saw workers planting new shrubs and cleaning the parking lot at the Bronzeville store. On Sunday, all entrances to the parking lot of the Chatham store remained blocked while a security guard in a car stood watch.

After Target closed its stores in Chatham and Morgan Park in 2019, there were concerns about the future of Walmart stores that are in food deserts. Many Walmart stores are in Black neighborhoods that have suffered from disinvestment over the years.

Walmart said its reopened stores will demonstrate its $35–50 million commitment to Chicago, while retaining employment for roughly 1,600 Chicagoans.

“We are extremely grateful that Walmart is not only recommitting to our city by reopening all of its Chicago locations, but also expanding its investments even further through innovative programming and services,” said Lightfoot. “In doing so, they are reaffirming that Chicago’s communities are a great place to invest and grow, and I personally look forward to continuing our partnership and collaboration in these efforts in the months and years ahead.”

McMillon said, “Walmart’s commitment to Chicago remains strong. We are not going anywhere. Instead, we are making the investment to repair and reopen all of our stores in the city and help rebuild communities through our racial equity initiative, two new Walmart Health locations in the city, and access to training and education to create a stronger Chicago.”

The 157,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter store at 8331 S. Stewart Ave. 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.

It took 10 years for community leaders to persuade Walmart to open its neighborhood market in Bronzeville on 47th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. 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.

“By recommitting and expanding investment in neighborhoods like Austin and Bronzeville, today’s announcement by Walmart supports INVEST South/West and we hope encourages other corporate partners to follow suit,” Lightfoot said.

“New resources like the health centers provided by Walmart are vital to our neighborhoods, and they represent massive opportunities for investment that are untapped across the city.”

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