Six years ago, Ald. Joann Thompson (16th) traveled to the International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas to push for retailers to bring their business to Chicago’s Englewood community.
She came away with nothing.
“Everything was fine until they said, ‘Where are you from?’ I said, ‘Chicago.’ [And they said], ‘What neighborhood are you from?’ When I said Englewood, nobody wanted to be bothered with us,” Thompson recalled.
“It was such a sad day. Coming home and getting on that plane, I was crying out to God saying, “Lord, what am I gonna do?…What can I do to bring things to my ward?”
On Tuesday, Thompson’s despair was replaced by hope for a new beginning.
The alderman put on an off-white party dress fit for a wedding and joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a groundbreaking ceremony for a grand experiment: an 18,000 square foot Whole Foods store at 63rd and Halsted across the street from Kennedy-King College.
Whole Foods is seen as a healthier alternative to grocery stores that currently exist in Englewood. There aren’t many, and the community has been described as a “food desert,” a term coined to convey the lack of quality grocery stores in a given community.
At the ceremony, Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb stated that he would “continue to listen to the residents,” but did not say whether or not he would lower its prices or alter the products.
But some residents aren’t too thrilled about Whole Foods coming to Englewood. Former Ald. Shirley Coleman (16th), Thompson’s predessor said, “The mayor is thinking about what he wants, rather than what the community needs….People will walk in the door and walk right out when they see the prices,” Coleman told the Sun-Times.
The $11 million project will require an expiring tax-increment-financing district to be extended. The store is projected to open in 2016.
What do you think about Whole Foods in Englewood?
Is this the best way to satisfy the need for quality grocery stores in communities deemed as “food deserts?”
Sound off below!