City Council authorizes spending up to $700K to acquire shuttered West Side Aldi
Mayor Lori Lightfoot called Aldi’s decision to “abandon” West Garfield Park a “terrible thing.” There’s still an urgent need for a grocery in the area, she said, “and we are working urgently with the alderman to make that happen.”
Decrying “corporate discrimination,” the Chicago City Council on Wednesday authorized Mayor Lori Lightfoot to spend $700,000 to acquire the shuttered site of an Aldi grocery store in West Garfield Park that made a food desert even bigger.
Lightfoot said Aldi’s mid-October closing of the 30-year-old store at 3835 W. Madison St. created a “dire situation” that forced the city to take an extraordinary step: using funds generated by the surrounding tax increment financing district to acquire the site before having secured a new grocery tenant or developer that can attract a new full-service grocery.
“The way in which Aldi’s abandoned the community — gave no notice to the employees — is something that we also can’t take lightly as a city,” the mayor said from the rostrum.
“We are continuing to look at our various options. But meanwhile, there’s an urgent need for a grocery store to come back to West Garfield Park and we are working urgently with the alderman to make that happen.”
Asked after the meeting how long finding a new grocer could take, Lightfoot replied: “I hope not long.” She called Aldi’s decision to “abandon” the neighborhood a “terrible thing.”
Local Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said he, too, doesn’t “take lightly” city acquisition of a property without a tenant or buyer. But Ervin said authorizing the land purchase is a matter of “most urgency and necessity.”
The city either could issue a request for proposals to identify a new grocer or rehab the property and make security improvements to make it more attractive to a future tenant.
“The community of West Garfield Park currently lacks any — I said ANY — full-service or grocery options with the loss of Save A Lot recently,” Ervin said.
“This is the right type of step that’s needed in the Madison corridor to bring back the vitality of a business district that once was considered the Michigan Avenue of the West Side of Chicago.”
As he did during heated committee debate, Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) questioned the “dangerous” precedent of acquiring property without a tenant and with no citywide policy governing future purchases under similar circumstances.
“If we buy this today, it will not be a grocery store tomorrow,” Lopez said.
In Ald. Leslie Hairston’s 5th Ward, “it took six years to fill a vacant Dominick’s. Are we going to be responsible for this site for the next six years while we wait to find a tenant?” Lopez asked.
“Look at any of our wards with vacant lots to see what a job we do in maintaining the properties that we have now. Now we’re gonna have a 100,000 square-foot property to maintain and a building to boot. If we had an end tenant in place, I’d be the first one to …champion this for my colleague. If we knew that there was someone coming in — even in the next six months — I’d be all for it.”
Hairston delivered an impassioned appeal to “corporate America” as she urged her colleagues to spare Ervin the six-year wait for a grocery store her South Shore constituents endured.
“How many grocery stores do you pass when you’re taking your child to soccer? When it’s your turn to prepare snacks for the kids at the games, you get to have healthy snacks. Your kids aren’t drinking the blue juice. They’re not eatin’ the Flamin’ Hots for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks,” Hairston said.
“We have to put our money where our mouth is. And it starts with the fact that everybody has a right to eat and needs to have the opportunity to have somewhere to shop. This is corporate discrimination on some of our basic human functions. … It has not happened in any of the other neighborhoods — other than in the Black and Brown neighborhoods.”
Other ordinances introduced
Also Wednesday, Lightfoot proposed a new and stronger sexual harassment policy for the city and introduced an ordinance to amend the city’s agreement with the Illinois Toll Highway Authority to finally deliver the western access to O’Hare Airport that has been talked about for decades.
The ordinance would pave the way for transferring 202 acres of city-owned land to the tollway authority and authorize the authority to use airport property during construction of the toll road connecting the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway on the north to the Tri-State Tollway on the south.
Arbitrator sides with city on cop vaccinations
During a wide-ranging news conference after Wednesday’s council meeting, Lightfoot also touted an arbitrator’s ruling upholding the city’s vaccine mandate for rank-and-file Chicago police officers.
The mayor said she cannot predict what the Fraternal Order of Police might do to challenge the ruling. But she hopes at least some of the roughly 2,800 Chicago police officers who remain unvaccinated will now get their shots, leaving fewer officers subject to suspension or firing.