A 150,000-square-foot, three-story Target bringing 200 jobs — 75 reserved for public housing residents — would sprout on 3.6 acres at the corner of Division and Larrabee in July 2013, sharing with new condos and town homes the land on which once stood the Cabrini-Green development’s William Green Homes.
But that’s only if it can withstand a cacophony of competing concerns.
“This is a potential benefit to the community, a potential start of an economic boom in Cabrini,” said Ald. Walter Burnett (27th). “But that’s just my opinion. It’s not my approval. All of this is pending on if the community likes it and accepts it. I’m not going to disregard the community’s concerns. And there are concerns.”
The innovative land swap deal that would bring Target to the Cabrini site, where the agency on March 30 began tearing down the last of the infamous high-rises, represents a first not only for the taxpayer-funded agency but for the retail giant as well.
“A retail development project of this magnitude and scale with a government agency as land owner has never been done,” said the developer, Zeb McLaurin of McLaurin Development Partners. “It’s an unprecedented transaction, so there was no template.”
It first had to clear hurdles at the Chicago Housing Authority, which tabled the project — estimated with a pricetag of $40 million to $60 million — while pushing its demand for jobs.
Target found the request of 75 jobs for the community’s poor reasonable. It will provide a job training program and job fair to help prepare residents for the available hourly, part-time and full-time positions.
But the publicly traded, Minneapolis-based company drew the line at CHA’s request for management jobs for its residents.
“It was a discussion point as we negotiated the deal,” said Kellie O’Connell-Miller, CHA’s vice president of strategic planning and public affairs. “One of the biggest successes of CHA’s Plan for Transformation is moving residents to self-sufficiency.”
Others said Target argued such a guarantee would discriminate against Target employees who had worked their way up, and could be interpreted to mean regardless of qualifications.
The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce entered negotiations.
“We have the potential here to create what will probably be just in construction alone, 125 jobs, and $40- to $60 million being invested in the community,” chamber president Jerry Roper said. “That ultimately creates the types of jobs where people can enter and move up from there. I had to do the Henry Kissinger thing.”
But now the big-box retailer must scale resistance from Cabrini residents who feel proprietary over what’s built on the land. Not just the poor living in the remaining row houses and in public housing units within Cabrini’s mixed-income condo and town home developments, but also their middle-class neighbors.
For their part, the public housing residents remain leery of anything that does not resemble replacement housing.
Their reasoning: Redevelopment of Cabrini under the historic transformation plan initiated in 1999 calls for 1,200 new public housing units to replace those lost in the demolished Cabrini Extensions and Green Homes. Only 395 to date have been built.
But Burnett and CHA officials stress there will be no net land loss for development of the new housing.
“We are aggressively pursuing properties with Target to make sure we are able to bring back the number of units we committed under the plan,” said O’Connell-Miller.
In exchange for the Cabrini site, Target will purchase from private owners within the boundaries of the city’s Near North Redevelopment Initiative several parcels equaling the site in size and value, turning them over to CHA.
The CHA residents’ homeowner neighbors, on the other hand, are worried about the impact of potential noise, traffic and trucking on the neighborhood. The new store’s design is Target’s typical urban format, with 150,000 square feet of sales space built atop a ground-floor parking lot with 360 parking spaces. It would have four truck docks. The third floor would be reserved for stock.
The store would offer its traditional cheap chic, one-stop shopping for clothing, electronics, home goods, etc., with a small grocery section, a clinic and a Starbucks.
Target, however, has responded with a traffic analysis showing a large share of its potential customers would visit the store either on foot or public transportation, and it has promised to address concerns over potential noise from overnight deliveries.
It will be a challenge to meld all the concerns, but the company has shown itself resilient thus far, said Burnett, describing Target as willing to help meet some of the community needs of its new proposed Near North Side home.
“Target is one of the top corporate community sponsors in the country,” Burnett said. “They’ve been open to discussions about adopting our schools, tutoring, after-school programs, and other things. The thing about transforming communities is that you get new bricks and mortar, but the social issues don’t go away.”
On Monday, the company came out to Cabrini to begin its community outreach. Executives outlined the plans at a community meeting. Said Target spokeswoman Molly Synder, “We pride ourselves on being a company that listens to our guests and develops stores in areas that will be embraced by the community.”