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1,000-job call center possible at shuttered South Side store

Discover Financial Services is in late-state negotiations to move into the former Target store in Chatham, a source said.

A former Target store at 8560 S. Cottage Grove Ave. could become a call center operated by Discover Financial Services.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Discover Financial Services is considering whether to convert a former Target store into a call center with 1,000 jobs, potentially delivering a big economic win to the South Side after a year of setbacks.

A source confirmed Monday that Riverwoods-based Discover is in late-stage negotiations on a lease of the vacant store at 8560 S. Cottage Grove Ave. The deal with the credit card company could result in 1,000 new jobs over the next two or three years, but nothing is final, the source said.

Crain’s Chicago Business reported the potential deal last week.

The 126,500-square-foot building in Chatham is owned by DL3 Realty, which bought it and another store in Morgan Park when Target closed the two South Side locations in 2019. DL3 managing partner Leon Walker declined to confirm any discussions with Discover but said several large-scale users are interested in the property.

Discover and officials at City Hall and World Business Chicago, the public-private group that promotes business growth, declined to comment. Discover has call centers in Delaware, Arizona, Ohio and Utah, said Matthew Towson, its director of community affairs.

Any agreement with Discover could be a boost for Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has emphasized policies to encourage investment in Black and Brown communities.

Walker said leading companies and investors have stepped up their interest in communities they have traditionally bypassed. He said addressing economic unfairness has become a business and charitable imperative in the wake of the pandemic and the looting that followed the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

“We are working very hard with the corporate community and stakeholders in the city to try to bring in opportunity,” Walker said. “Sometimes chaos create opportunity.”

Target’s closure of the two South Side stores led to criticism that it was withdrawing from a largely Black customer base in Chicago. But Walker praised Target for being willing to deal with him and community leaders on creative plans to reuse the stores. The Morgan Park store has become an outpost of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, which is working toward having 550 jobs there.

The Chatham site is within the 6th Ward of Ald. Roderick Sawyer, who declined to comment about Discover. Sawyer said, however, he hopes whatever business moves into the former store will not need city subsidies in exchange for providing jobs.

Walker said he believes commercial improvements along Cottage Grove will help revitalize the entire South Side. DL3 partnered with Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network to take over the former Urban Partnership Bank at 7936 S. Cottage Grove. Malcolm X College is taking space there to offer training for health care jobs.

At 6250 S. Cottage Grove, DL3 has gotten preliminary city approval to build a Friend Health Medical Campus.