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North Siders not smiling on plan for Wal-Mart

They may be clamoring for Wal-Marts on the South Side, but on the North Side on Monday night, the “smiley faces” were few and far between during a meeting to discuss a proposed store in Lake View.

About 250 people filled Lake View’s Wellington Avenue Church, many of whom don’t want the retailer setting up shop in their neighborhood.

The plan calls for a 31,000-square-foot “Wal-Mart Market” at 2840 N. Broadway, occupying the space vacated by a PetSmart store. The store — the first Wal-Mart on the North Side — would sell groceries, pharmaceuticals and a “limited assortment of general merchandise,” said Steve Restivo, a Wal-Mart spokesman. Restivo said a lease has not yet been signed.

“Lake View is not a food desert,” said Jill Zenoff, 28, of Lake View. “The [food] market is already saturated here.”

Many audience members, including Zenoff, wore pins opposing Wal-Mart, and some audience members wore frowning smiles. Smiley faces are a Wal-Mart symbol.

The Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce is dead set against the store, saying the it would be a major threat to small businesses.

“We don’t want it,” said chamber executive director Maureen Martino.

To those who say the arrival of a neighborhood Wal-Mart kills surrounding small businesses, Restivo pointed to the Austin Wal-Mart. He said 22 new businesses have opened in that neighborhood since Wal-Mart opened its doors in 2006.

A spokesman for Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), whose ward would house the new store, said he has not made up his mind to back the proposal. Tunney is still getting feedback from the community, said Bennett Lawson, Tunney’s chief of staff.

Tunney said so far, constituent views he has received about supporting the project are “close to 50-50.”

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