ENGLEWOOD — Whole Foods Market will anchor a 13-acre development in one of the most economically depressed communities on the South Side by building an 18,000-square-foot store across the street from Kennedy-King College.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to announce the store plans at a Wednesday news conference.
In a statement, Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, said he hopes that opening an Englewood store will encourage more economic development in other underserved neighborhoods.
“We are honored and excited to be asked by Mayor Emanuel to join in these efforts to make fresh, healthy food more widespread in Chicago. His challenge to me last April helped us to consider new business models to provide fresh food and economic development in neighborhoods that need it most," Robb said.
"We look forward to joining organizations and community members to envision and develop a store that meets the needs of Englewood,” said Robb.
The store is expected to create 100 jobs and is slated to open in 2016, Robb said. DL3 Realty in Calumet Heights is the lead developer for the project, Emanuel said.
“I have worked with Whole Foods Market for the last year and a half to invest in one of our oldest neighborhoods and address a pressing need for fresh, healthy food, and I’m proud to announce this wonderful new facility that will help meet this need while creating a strong economic anchor in this community,” a statement released by Emanuel said.
Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th), whose ward includes the proposed Whole Foods site, said she expects the new grocery store to attract new consumers to Englewood.
“Bringing Whole Foods to Englewood will be a smart and strategic decision for our community," Thompson said. "It will also provide some of the best and healthiest fruits and vegetables for our children and families.”
The area surrounding Kennedy-King College at 740 W. 63rd St. is not without a full-service grocery. An Aldi store at 620 W. 63rd St. sells meat and a limited amount of fresh vegetables.
Some residents questioned why the city backs opening a grocery store known for its steep prices in a low-income community.
Adrian Brown, 54, said he and many other Englewood residents shop at Aldi because of its low prices.
"A loaf of bread at Aldi, wheat or white, costs about 50 cents, but at Whole Foods it's nearly $2. I spend about $500 a month buying groceries at Aldi for my family, and it lasts the entire month," Brown said. "But I'll bet $500 won't go far at Whole Foods."
But the Rev. Johnny Banks, executive director of A Knock At Midnight, a nonprofit in Englewood that serves youths, adults and families, welcomes a Whole Foods.
“One of the issues faced in a community such as Englewood is the difficulty of finding healthy food right in our own neighborhood. With this new Whole Foods comes the opportunity for the members of our community to have access to healthier food and healthier lifestyles," Banks said.
Whole Foods is no stranger to partnering with local organizations to improve the community, said Michael Bashaw, regional president for Whole Foods Market.
"Whole Foods Market’s Chicago stores have supported nonprofits and community organizations in Englewood, including Fresh Moves and Growing Home for several years," Bashaw said.
"Whole Kids Foundation, the company’s nonprofit, is dedicated to improving childhood nutrition through school salad bars, gardens and nutrition education for teachers, and will direct $20,000 in funding to support schools and community organizations in the Englewood area," he said.