A City Council committee agreed Wednesday to acquire the site of Chicago’s only shuttered Dominick’s that has yet to find a replacement grocer, but that wasn’t enough to appease the local alderman.
South Side Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said she wants Mayor Rahm Emanuel to summon the CEOs of major grocery chains to a meeting and demand that somebody — anybody — fill the gaping hole at 71st and Jeffrey Boulevard that Dominick’s left nearly a year ago.
“It’s very difficult for the mayor to say he’s doing enough when he’s announcing grocery stores all over everywhere except in the place that needs it the most,” Hairston said.
“He knows people. He could do more. I need him to do more. It will be a year in a few days. It is a black mark on him. Absolutely. It says that he doesn’t care. I want him to use the power that he has as mayor of the City of Chicago to spur economic development in South Shore, just as he’s done in the South Loop. Whatever he has done in all of those other situations, I expect the same here.”
Hairston was asked whether the vacant store two blocks from her home would cost Emanuel votes in the Feb. 24 election.
“Well, he’s already lost support because it has remained vacant. He’s got to earn that support back,” she said.
Mayoral spokesperson Elizabeth Langsdorf countered that Emanuel has “used every tool we have” to get a replacement grocery into Jeffrey Plaza, but it hasn’t worked and the mayor is as frustrated as Hairston is.
“No one is happy with the pace of this process and the owner’s unwillingness to cooperate,” Langsdorf said.
“What happened [Wednesday] is the ultimate authority the city has: eminent domain. Now, we’ll try to move the process forward [with an RFP] to ensure that residents of the community have access to fresh and healthy foods. We’ve been speaking with all of the stores. This is an ongoing process. It’s important to the city to make sure there’s a grocery store there. We’re doing everything we can within our power to do that.”
Wednesday’s blast is not the first time Hairston has turned up the heat on Emanuel over the shuttered South Shore Dominick’s.
She did the same back in May when Emanuel announced plans to build a new Mariano’s store in Bronzeville.
On that day, Hairston said she was so incensed by Emanuel’s failure to go to bat for South Shore — and by what she called Emanuel’s North Side-centric development efforts — she was considering running for mayor.
“I feel like I’m living in a part of the city that’s been cordoned off. Every day, I drive by the vacant Dominicks’s in Jeffrey Plaza and I’m wondering if we’re ever going to get a place to shop,” Hairston said then.
“Bob Mariano [Roundy’s CEO] needs to meet with my constituents face-to-face and tell us why we’re not good enough for their company to consider moving to our ward. I’ve talked to his people. They have not explained why not. They have just said, ‘Bob isn’t interested.’ We should be jumping out. I’ve got more population surrounding my Dominick’s than the one at 39th and King.”
Three months later, Hairston took Mariano on a two-hour tour of seven prospective construction sites in her ward, and Mariano promised to get back to the city’s Department of Planning and Development with a decision in a few days.
On Wednesday, Hairston said she’s heard from Mariano and he’s ready to talk about other sites — but not at Jeffrey Plaza.