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Residents, supporters urge Target to reconsider closing South Side stores

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) joined a protest outside a Target store in Chatham that is slated to close in February. | Manny Ramos/Sun-Times

Chatham community leaders gathered in front of a Target store Thursday to urge the Minneapolis-based company not to close two stores on Chicago’s South Side.

The group of about 30 people was led by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.); the Target is in his congressional district.

“This is unconscionable. It’s an outrage. It’s a really callous decision by the Target corporation to abandon this community,” Rush said. “It’s morally criminal for them to make this decision.”

Target earlier this week announced it would close two of its Chicago stores in February. The stores — Target’s southernmost in Chicago — are the Chatham location, at 8560 S. Cottage Grove Ave., and one in Morgan Park, at 11840 S. Marshfield Ave. Target cited “several years of decreasing profitability” as the driving factor.

“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.

Rush is skeptical of Target’s claims of declining profits, and said he has asked the company to provide details and work with residents to find a solution.

“We want to see the data behind this decision; we don’t think the data will substantiate their decision,” Rush said. “When we are in the Target stores, we see lines at the cash register. We see crowded aisles. We literally see people who are spending their money at Target.”

That includes Birdie Gonsoulin, 87, who lives nearby. She said it’s harder for her to travel long distances to stores, so she depends on the Chatham Target.

“We need these stores here in our neighborhood and we have to try and do everything we can to keep them open,” Gonsoulin said. When the Chatham store closes, the closest Target will be about five miles away, in Hyde Park.

Rev. Marc A. Robertson, president of Chatham-Avalon Community Council, said Gonsoulin is just one of many elders in the community who will suffer from the loss of the stores.

State Rep. Justin Slaughter was frustrated by the struggle to get and keep major retailers in traditionally underserved parts of the city.

“This is not adding up,” said Slaughter, whose 27th District includes the Morgan Park store. “What is this algorithm? What is this formula that historically big corporations have used to either not come into our communities or abruptly leave out of our communities … We want to know. What is this secret sauce?”

Rush said if Target closes these two stores it will join a long list of businesses and corporations that have already abandoned the South Side. Rush has sent a letter to Target demanding a formal sit-down.

“Your closure of these stores is a classic example of persistent disinvestment on the Southside of Chicago,” Rush said in a letter to Target CEO Brian Cornell.

Jacqueline DeBuse, Target’s spokesperson, said they are working to answer any questions elected officials and community leaders may have.