Madison and Western grocer: from the archives
08/28/2009 11:48 AM
Chicago Journal has been covering the Madison-Western grocery store
issue for the last three years.
Here are a few articles about the store from our archives about the store and the the community debate sparked by the store.
Before we get to the articles, I've got to include this standard disclaimer: the archives will be back. Eventually.
First up: Haydn Bush's "Buzzword" column from June 15, 2006:
Aldi's bid sparks frustration at Madison and Western
By HAYDN BUSH
Organizers of Monday's Homeowners of Westtown forum at St. Malachy School carefully billed the event as a chance for neighborhood residents to weigh in on the possible construction of an Aldi's discount grocer at Madison and Western. Karen Williams, a member of HOW, made a preemptive plea to residents to avoid racial undertones in their comments, noting that many longtime residents travel to nearby Aldi's.
As it turned out, nearly everyone who turned out Monday night, from relative newcomers to longtime residents, took the view that Aldi's was not appropriate for Madison and Western. The informal consensus was that it would be better for the developers, Coniston Consulting, to hold off on developing the high-stakes corner until a higher-quality grocer showed some interest.
Earnest Gates, cofounder of the Near West Community Development Corp.--which holds a 20 percent stake in the project-- argued that other grocers passed on the site, but said he would be open to having neighborhood groups convene to propose alternate plans.
I think a higher-quality store is probably in order. But beyond the debate over whether Aldi's is a suitable for the area, the most interesting comments of the night came from Arnette King, a representative of the Madison Western Chamber of Commerce. King said that despite the residential explosion in the surrounding area, the city of Chicago was still showing potential developers demographic information that was several years old, predating the Near West Side's boom.
"The city is selling this community short," King said. "We deserve a Dominick's or a Jewel." She then noted that many neighborhood residents are used to driving to grocery stores that other areas take for granted.
"We want a walkable community like everybody else," King said.
The comments aptly summed up a neighborhood where residential growth in the form of multi-unit condo buildings is everywhere in sight, but retail stores and vibrant sidewalk life are miles away.
One woman suggested that the problem lies with neighborhood residents; she noted that plenty of grocery stores have left the area over the years because of trouble with retail theft and crowds of youths hanging around outside, and implored residents to support any new stores and challenge loitering teens if they become a problem.
"We've got to get behind the store," the women said.
Indeed, neighborhood support of a grocery store will be critical to its success. But it's hard to believe that grocers would bypass the area based simply on past perceptions. There's a busy Jewel across the street from the remains of ABLA at Ashland and Roosevelt, and a Dominick's and a Starbuck's in North Lawndale, a West Side neighborhood in considerably worse shape than the Madison and Western neighborhood.
Sadly, it will probably take the addition of a major grocer and some complementary retail to truly put the neighborhood on the map. However, I believe that the area's rapid rebound - heading all the way west to Garfield Park - easily give it the purchasing power to support a variety of retail options.
In the long run, the neighborhood looks destined to thrive, with great transit options, a mix of historic streets and new housing and a short trip to the Loop. Right now, though, residents are rightly frustrated that no one but themselves seems to appreciate what their neighborhood has to offer.
This story ran in the Aug. 10, 2006 edition of Chicago Journal.
Near West food fight
Community groups bicker over Aldi plans for Madison and Western
By BILL MAYEROFF
Earnest Gates, co-founder of Near West Community Development Corp., remains optimistic that work on a new Aldi at the corner of Madison Street and Western Avenue will likely begin in the spring of 2007, despite a push by some Near West Side community groups to solicit another grocer for the site. Gates says that Jewel, Dominick’s, Certified and Cub Foods were all contacted about developing the site, but that none took the offer. Second Ward Alderman Madeline Haithcock did not return calls for comment, this week
“For one reason or another, they all opted out of the site,” Gates said this week. “It was too small for some stores.”
But if neighborhood groups can get another store to take the space, Gates says their proposal will be considered, though he thinks it’s unlikely.
“It’s not like there haven’t been efforts to bring other grocers to the area,” Gates said. “[Aldi] is the only store to step up to the plate.”
But Rory Foster, a member of Homeowners of West Town, believes the area does not need another Aldi. Nearby, there are Aldi stores at 2525 W. Cermak, 3835 W. Madison and 800 N. Kedzie, among others.
“There are three Aldis in the serviceable area,” Foster said, adding that he does not believe the food sold at Aldi to be of a decent quality. “There’s no place to get anything fresh.” Foster said that Homeowners of West Town is trying to talk to “any of the major chains” of grocery stores to get them to come to the area, and Foster believes residents deserve better than another Aldi.
“The longtime residents have worked very hard to better the community,” Foster said.
Michael Cunningham, a neighborhood resident who lives near Washington Street and Western Avenue, believes an Aldi would negatively affect the quality of life in the neighborhood.
“The people in the neighborhood do not have a quality grocery store they can go to,” he said. Cunningham added that he has been to other Aldi stores in the area and has seen boxes and food on the floor, as well as people loitering outside, and believes that another Aldi would not be any different.
Cunningham says that Aldi is not a store generally found in developing neighborhoods like West Town.
“You won’t find them in a Lincoln Park,” Cunningham said.
He added that Aldi does not carry fresh meat and produce, adding that he thinks the store would discourage other retailers from coming into the area.
“It’s very very shortsighted, at least in my opinion,” he said.
Cunningham is also concerned because he has not seen any plans or renderings for the lot. “We have not seen the plan and that is a concern,” he said.
David Askew, a member of Homeowners of West Town, is also concerned that nobody has been shown any plans.
“We haven’t even seen a pencil drawing, let alone an architectural drawing,” Askew said. Askew echoed Cunningham’s concern that the selection at Aldi is limited at best.
“We want a place where we can go and buy some fresh meat,” said Askew, who lives on the 2200 block of Washington. “I have yet to see baby food at Aldi.”
Askew says people have told him that stores like Jewel and Dominick’s are too expensive for the people who live in the neighborhood, but he doesn’t agree with that assessment.
“When did Dominick’s and Jewel become the Gucci and Louis Vuitton of supermarkets?” Askew asked.
Askew agrees that putting an Aldi at Madison and Western is not in the best interest of the neighborhood and says he would rather wait a year or two for another grocery store to come to the area.
“When someone says to me ‘Aldi is the best that we can do,’ I say to them, ‘Give me proof of that,’” he said.
Askew believes that if Aldi comes into the area, it will discourage other stores from opening around the store.
“There is no other retail that is around these Aldis,” Askew said. “They are not magnets, at least that I can tell.” He added that space in the neighborhood is limited and an Aldi won’t help the situation.
“We won’t ever have a deli, a bakery, fresh meat, anything like that, because the land is gone,” he said.
Gates said he does not understand the objections to Aldi.
“It’s more about image than content,” Gates said. “People associate [Aldi] with poorer neighborhoods.” He added that the proposed Aldi would be modeled after an Aldi at 47th Street and Ashland Avenue, which he toured and found to be clean and well-run. “I was not dissatisfied with the store,” he said.
In the end, Gates said, unless other groups can convince another grocery store to come to the area, Aldi will likely open next fall. While not happy about it, David Askew acknowledges the possibility and will be ready for it.
“At the end of the day,” Askew said, “we’ve got to live with whatever comes.”
The final piece about the grocer for Madison and Western prior to this week's story announcing Pete's as the grocer for the site was published in the February 26, 2009 edition.
Grocery store fissures
New group petitions for Pete’s, but store developer skeptical
By MICAH MAIDENBERG
A new group is making the future of a long-debated grocery store for the Near West Side its first major issue, putting it at odds with an established organization the city selected as developer of the store.
The Neighbors’ Development Network gathered around 1,100 signatures calling for a Pete’s Fresh Market grocery at the southeast corner of Madison and Western, a parcel the city has envisioned for a grocer since at least July 2001, when it released a request-for-proposals for such a store. The group gave the petitions last week to 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti.
The effort to bring a grocer to Madison and Western has long been contentious, revealing some of the fissures in a neighborhood that became wealthier and more diverse during the recent real estate boom.
The Near West Side Community Development Corporation has floated an Aldi’s as the anchor tenant for the site, but many of the newer homeowners in the area battled the idea, calling for a full-service store with higher quality products, according to the Chicago Journal archive.
West Haven Phoenix LLC, whose members include the Near West CDC and Trkla, Pettigrew, Allen & Payne, a real estate firm, was designated developer of the site by the Community Development Commission in June 2004. The city council never ratified the decision, however, as land acquisition delays meant the city and West Haven Phoenix never closed on a final land sale nor tax increment financing agreement. The land for the grocery remains vacant.
Andre Perrin, an organizer of Neighbors’ Development Network, said at a public meeting Tuesday that Pete’s has the right combination of selection and price. The Pete’s store closest to the Near West Side is located at 2526 W. Cermak.
“Pete’s is a store that fits into that middle ground. It has amazing quality, it has fresh fruits and vegetables. The prices are for everybody, they’re very affordable,” he said.
But Near West’s executive director Earnest Gates was skeptical the petition drive would draw a store like Pete’s to the neighborhood.
“If they’re so partial to Pete’s they’re willing to petition to get Pete’s then that’s fine,” he said. “But the store has to be willing to come in and make the investment.”
Gates said the demographics of West Haven — an area bound by Ashland, the Eisenhower Expressway, Western and Lake streets — suggest to him higher-end stores wouldn’t work.
Data created for Near West by MetroEdge, a consulting firm, and provided to Chicago Journal, calculated the 2008 household income within West Haven as $37,008, up from $9,191 in 1990, when the area hosted more public housing residents living in the now demolished Henry Horner Homes. The figure from last year is still about half as much as the broader Near West Side average household income.
The same data set totaled 11,450 black and 254 white residents within West Haven’s boundaries, Gates pointed out. He said calls for higher-end stores reflected new, white homeowner’s demands at the expense of the broader neighborhood.
“If you’re really going to break out the incomes by race, the higher incomes you’ll find belong to young, white homeowners who have moved into the community …” Gates said. “If you look at it under race and ethnicity, you basically have 254 Caucasians versus 11,000 African-Americans.”
“You can’t have the tail wagging the dog,” he said. “You can’t have a strictly Caucasian agenda.”
Asked about Gates’ comments, Perrin said, “Anyone who says things like that … doesn’t know our group and, number two, didn’t pay attention to the historic election of Barack Obama who forged a coalition across racial lines, across economic lines. That’s what we’ve done. We’re constantly reaching out to public housing residents, renters, and they have been incredibly supportive.”
Many signatures that organizers picked up during the petition drive for Pete’s, Perrin said, were from public housing residents and renters who were black.
“I think if anyone is trying to be divisive, I would question their motives,” he said.
Decisions about the land at Madison and Western identified for the store could be coming shortly. A spokeswoman for the Department of Law said the city expects to purchase three parcels at the Madison and Western site from a property owner named Guiseppi Zappani within weeks.
Pete’s did not a return a call for comment but store owner James Dremonas told the Sun-Times last week he’s had designs on the property at Madison and Western for the last five years.
Gates, meanwhile, said his group reached out to Pete’s lawyer, who hadn’t responded. He said four grocers are being contacted for an upcoming community meeting, and two had confirmed their attendance. Gates declined to name them. “All the grocers that want to be players, there will be an opportunity for them to come to the table and step up and say, ‘I want in,’” he said.
Susan Massel, a spokeswoman for the Department of Community Development, said her agency is working to bring in a store with Ald. Fioretti, who represents the area.
Fioretti’s chief of staff, Andy Pierce, declined to comment on the recent petition drive and said last week there was no news about the grocery store to share.
At a meeting hosted by the Homeowners of Westtown last August, Fioretti said he was pushing Arnold Randall, at that time the commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development, to release a new request-for-proposal for the grocery store, but wasn’t getting far.
“There are too many vested interests in this city government, I got to tell you,” Fioretti said of his efforts. “And you know what? This one, I’m trying to fight to open up this project again, see what we can do here.”
It’s Ald. Fioretti that some members of Neighbors’ Development Network want to reach most.
Perrin, at Tuesday’s meeting, told audience members the petition will make it difficult for Fioretti to go against more than 1,000 of his constituents. He said, “We can take the decision making out of his hands and put it in our hands and let him know what we want.”
“They can’t dictate what comes here,” Perrin went on to say. “They have to listen to us.”