Concerned about the
results of a study showing that poor communities in the city lack grocery stores
and other basic retail stores, the Chicago City Council’s Committee on
Economic, Capital and Technology Development held a hearing on Nov. 29
to consider options for bringing fresh vegetables and fruit to the city’s retail
deserts. Grocery store development is particularly important to examine because
they are both a vital source of food for residents and magnets for additional
healthy retail development in the city’s neighborhoods.
The City Council has recently played a more active role in wooing
attractive retail stores to the city’s neighborhoods. The chair of the
committee, Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th Ward), and committee member Ald. Manny Flores (1st Ward),
earlier this year successfully fought to reduce the ability of grocery stores
to use restrictive covenants to block competition.
Restrictive covenants prevent a company from buying a site vacated by a
grocery store and reopening it as a different grocery store. Because of
restrictive covenants, when a grocery story or pharmacy moves away, the property
often sits vacant for an extended period of time; even worse, the loss of a
grocery store can bring down the rest of the retail establishments in the
neighborhood. Now, Laurino and Flores, and many of their colleagues, are eager
to work with the city’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to plant
and grow new and nourish existing healthy retail in all of the city’s
And it appears DPD is listening. New Commissioner
Lori Healey outlined her department’s plan to hold a grocery store expo early next
year to advertise Chicago neighborhoods to major
local grocery store retailers. DPD is developing strategies
to market underserved communities and educate retailers on how to build
competitive stores in dense areas of the city.
At the hearing, MPC commended Laurino, Flores and DPD for their proactive
zoning and marketing work to attract more retail development, and offered the
following suggestions in prepared testimony:
Weave retail development into other citywide efforts
- As the Chicago Housing Authority continues its Plan
for Transformation, ensuring the development of adequate grocery resources
near each of the 10 redeveloping sites should be a priority.
The city’s ongoing analysis of industrial demand
and available land involves examining industrial corridors from the North to
the South Side. MPC recommends DPD also consider opportunities for retail
conversion where industrial no longer proves viable.
Analyze the role of independent
. Where appropriate, entrepreneurs ought to be encouraged to fill
the void left by national chains so
not only can provide the appropriate
services to all its residents, but simultaneously encourage competition and
To read the Metropolitan Planning Council’s full
testimony, click here
To read the Metro Chicago Information Center’s report,
“Chain Reaction: Income, Race, and Access to Chicago ’s Major Player Grocers,"