After years of trying to land a second Walmart in Chicago, the world's largest retailer succeeded in a big way yesterday when the City Council unanimously endorsed a Supercenter on the Far South Side, the anchor of a 270-acre mixed-use development. While only a few months ago the outcome of that store seemed uncertain, it all broke last week, when the unions reached a tentative agreement with Walmart to pay $8.75 an hour in its stores, more than the current minimum wage but less than was initially sought. On top of that, the retailer has cast doubt on whether a surefire deal has been set. Meanwhile, the city is bracing for the prospect of dozens of stores, through a deal arranged by Mayor Richard Daley, both a bane and a boon as it could mean an investment of $1 billion though also a costly one if it undercuts current retailers. The Sun-Times' incomparable Fran Spielman spells it all out for us:
An Olympic dream denied, with no other job- and revenue-generator on the horizon. Aldermen weary of being squeezed from both sides. A retailing behemoth thwarted in other cities desperate to advance its urban strategy. All of those factors--and a site change to a Far South Side ward whose alderman is more popular than his Chatham colleague--helped to bring the long-running Wal-Mart saga to a successful conclusion. But the six-year battle over Wal-Mart's plan to expand its foothold in the Chicago market ultimately came to a close because it was too big to pass up and because the world's largest retailer blinked.How an agreement for 21 stores is considered blinking is news to us, even if Walmart has made wage agreements (or not!) for the first time in its history. With this one settled, how long before Brooklyn is next?