AUBURN GRESHAM — By year's end Shirley Bryant could have a grocery store in walking distance from her Auburn Gresham home.
That new grocery store is a 42,942-square-foot Walmart Neighborhood Market store at the corner of 76th Street and Ashland Avenue.
"I can't wait until Walmart opens. I won't have to go a long way to find a grocery store that sells everything I eat like fruit, vegetables and choice meats at prices I can afford," said Bryant, a 33-year resident. "For seniors like me that's important."
A Tuesday groundbreaking was held for the new store, which could be completed by December. Officials with Wal-mart Stores Inc. said the Walmart opening will create 130 new jobs.
Ald. Latasha Thomas (17th) said economic development and jobs are two things the new store would address.
"Our community needs this store because it will bring jobs to the community, food choices and more economic development," said Thomas, whose ward includes Auburn Gresham.
Scott Gendell, president of the store's developer, Terraco Inc., predicted the store will "make a meaningful difference in this neighborhood.
"And I'll bet you dollars to donuts that others will follow Walmart's lead," Gendell said.
The new Auburn Gresham store will be the sixth Walmart built on the South Side since its expansion into the city four years ago, said Katlin Wolfe, Walmart's director of operations for Northern Illinois.
"We now have stores open in Chatham, Pullman, Little Village, Back of The Yards, and in October one will open in Grand Boulevard," Wolfe said. "As we continue to evaluate sites across the city, we will be flexible in our evaluation to ensure that the formats reflect the communities in which we like to operate."
Wolfe said Walmart has hired more than 2,200 Chicago residents over the last several years and plans to hire more. One block away from the Walmart site at 7627 S. Ashland Ave. is Aldi, a discount grocer Wolfe said is a great competitor but "we offer affordable prices."
The general contractor for the new store is UJAMAA Construction Inc., which until 2010, was based in Auburn Gresham at 400 W. 76th St. The South Side company has built six Walmart stores in Chicago including the Chatham store.
Todd Presley, vice president of UJAMAA Construction, said the store will be complete by December although Walmart officials said it does not expect completion until first quarter 2015.
Unlike the Chatham store, which is a supercenter, the Auburn Gresham store will be smaller.
"We are always looking to build the proper size store for the neighborhoods we serve," Wolfe said.
The presence of a Walmart store could also put pressure on other local businesses to do right by the community, said state Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago), whose district includes the store site.
"I literally live less than two blocks away from here. I hope that this new Walmart store puts all those convenience stores that do not hire people from the community but sells drug paraphernalia on notice," Collins said. "Those businesses need to get their act together if the want the community to support them."
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