Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been burning the phone lines to Target’s corporate office urging the Minneapolis retailer to reconsider its plan to close two of its five South Side stores — one in Chatham, the other in Morgan Park.
“If you’re gonna call yourself a Chicagoland store, you should be in all parts of Chicago. Not some. Not limited. It’s not right,” Emanuel said Wednesday.
In the meantime, the mayor is doing the legislative equivalent of closing the barn door after the horses are already out.
Emanuel signed an executive order on Wednesday that, in essence, would empower the city to recoup city subsidies from developments that lease space to retailers that open stores in one Chicago neighborhood while also closing them in another.
“There was a gap in our unified position as a city to make sure all neighborhoods, all residents, had access–not only to fresh fruits and vegetables, but the quality of life that comes with retail in their neighborhood,” the mayor said.
“It’s incumbent on them to share that information if, in another part of the city, they’re planning an expansion, but in another part of the city, they’re planning on a closure that will affect the neighborhood and the jobs. Seeing this weakness….I signed an executive order…Do I think this will solve everything? No. Do I think it tightens up the ship? Absolutely. We found a weakness…and we immediately addressed it.”
In late October, Target announced its controversial decision to close the Chatham and Morgan Park stores. The company said it reached that decision after what it called a “rigorous annual process” to “maintain the overall health of the business” by evaluating the performance of “every store in the portfolio.”
Had Emanuel’s executive order been in effect at that time, it may well have stopped the retrenchment — or at the very least, prevented Target or the developments in which it is located from receiving or maintaining city subsidies.
It would prohibit the city from entering into a redevelopment agreement “involving the expenditure of TIF funds that will be used to develop retail uses of 25,000 or more square feet until the developer signs a sworn affidavit.”
To remain eligible for a TIF subsidy, the developer would need a “sworn certificate” from each tenant leasing 25,000 or more square feet stating that the tenant “has no plans to close any of its other retail locations within the city in the future.”
Developers who submit false statements would be declared in default. The TIF subsidy would be terminated.
The City Council recently approved $13M in assistance for the Edens Collection, a center at Foster and the Edens that will have a number of retailers, including a Target.
Target has been in expansion mode with a new, 20,000-square-foot Hyde Park store that opened in 2016 and plans for more Chicago stores over the next two years, in Rogers Park and Logan Square. Target also plans to remodel 18 stores, many of them in the city.
The Chatham and Morgan Park closings have infuriated South Side shoppers and the politicians who represent them.
Last week, Chatham community leaders gathered in front of a Target store to urge the Minneapolis-based company to reconsider the South Side store closings.
The group of about 30 people was led by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), who called the closings “morally criminal,” “unconscionable” and an “outrage.”
“They want to get the residents of this community to spend their dollars in Target for Christmas, and then Target will bag the money from this community, close the store and then leave the community,” Rush said on that day.
Hinting strongly at a boycott, Rush demanded to see facts and figures that would “substantiate” Target’s claim that of declining profits at the two stores.
He also fired off a letter to Target CEO Brian Cornell, that states: “Your closure of these stores is a classic example of persistent disinvestment on the Southside of Chicago.”
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, was also quick to urge Target to reconsider “what amounts to a racially imbalanced policy of development and investment and keep the South Side Targets in place, rather than abandoning your investment here for the greener pastures of the North Side.”
Calling the Chatham store closing a “devastating blow,” Sawyer said, “It is ironic that these stores will shutter in February, while the chain is putting finishing touches on two new stores on the North Side, in Logan Square and Rogers Park, both of which already have nearby Target stores.”