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Walmart senior exec discusses new urban retail strategy, company's plans to roll out minority supplier program in Chicago, at MPC Annual Luncheon

At its 2011 Annual Luncheon, Metropolitan Planning Council also awards the Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning to Magellan Development Group for Lakeshore East 

(Chicago)….. As Walmart continues to expand in the Chicago market with a focus on smaller format stores, the company is “on the brink” of rolling out a comprehensive minority supplier program, using Chicago as a launching pad, said Tom Mars, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, Walmart U.S., today at the Metropolitan Planning Council’s (MPC) 2011 Annual Luncheon, “What, where and how? Rethinking the retail landscape,” at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

At a time when the region and nation is focused intently on job creation and community revitalization, MPC invited a major employer to deliver the keynote address at its annual luncheon. More than 800 corporate, civic, government and community leaders from metropolitan Chicago and Northwest Indiana attended the event to support the work of MPC and to learn more about how Walmart and other major retailers’ changing urban strategies will affect the built and natural environments, community development strategies, and the regional economy.

“MPC believes all local employers play a role in keeping metropolitan Chicago competitive, equitable and sustainable,” said MPC President MarySue Barrett. "When employers are at the table as community development decisions are made -- we all benefit. Likewise, when community leaders can share their ideas for smart business decisions that create new jobs, support local workers, and build healthy neighborhoods -- we all benefit.”

Mars is responsible for asset protection and financial services for the Walmart U.S. division. He also oversees the company’s supplier diversity, labor relations, and compliance departments, and was one of the author’s of the company’s national urban retail strategy. MPC Vice Chair Jesse H. Ruiz, a partner with Drinker, Biddle & Reath, moderated the conversation with Mars.

Of Chicago, Mars said Walmart is not the first urban area the company has entered, but it is a “critically important” market. He noted that this quarter, the company posted returns from its smaller format stores that are on par with its Supercenters, “which makes it that much more attractive to grow [the smaller] format at a faster rate.”

He also said Chicago would soon become the launching pad for the company’s new minority supplier program, which will be national in scope and focus on professional services, food and general merchandise.

Mars told the audience that Walmart has learned well how important it is to listen to the communities where they are locating and that the company is willing to be at the table, when appropriate, as those communities make development decisions. Walmart has been impressed with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s action plan for working with businesses, he said, as well as with the mayor’s “decisive” leadership. “It’s clear everyone is on the same page. [Chicago has] an action plan, and we like action plans,” said Mars.

On the retailer’s sustainability efforts, Mars said the company has learned quite a bit from its international experiences. “Sustainability is highly transferrable from one city to the next. The practices we’re applying in China transfer just as nicely in Africa as they do in Chicago,” Mars said. He also noted that the company shipped 300 million more containers a year in 2010 than in 2007, but drove 200 million fewer miles, an indication that Walmart is constantly questioning how to be more sustainable.  

Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning

At the event, MPC and Annual Luncheon Presenting Sponsor PNC awarded the 2011 Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning to the Magellan Development Group for Lakeshore East. Watch a video about Lakeshore East. >

MPC has presented the award – named in honor of Daniel H. Burnham, the creator of the 1909 Plan of Chicago – since 1988. In his 1909 Plan of Chicago, Daniel Burnham wrote that “the lakefront by right belongs to the people.” In that spirit, Lakeshore East is the culmination of more than 40 years of efforts to convert the former Illinois Central rail yard, located on the shores of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, into a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood.

Magellan collaborated with eight architecture firms to take on the challenge of transforming 28 acres of formerly industrial land into a neighborhood with nearly 5,000 residences, 2.2 million square feet of commercial space, and six acres of park land. Just a short walk to countless jobs, public transit connections, and downtown destinations, Lakeshore East further sets a precedent for sustainability with the Midwest’s first residential tower to receive LEED Silver certification.

“It has always been our vision for Lakeshore East to perpetuate the spirit of the Burnham Plan, created by architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham and his team to beautify downtown Chicago and the city’s scenic lakefront,” said Magellan co-CEO Joel Carlins.

The award includes a $5,000 honorarium underwritten by PNC. That amount will be matched by $5,000 from Magellan, and the total of $10,000 will be contributed to the Chicago Youth Program Scholarship Fund.

“The Lakeshore East master plan illustrates the company’s commitment to creating urban communities that feature trend-setting architecture, adhere to high environmental standards, and are rich with amenities,” said Joseph A. Gregoire, regional president, Illinois, PNC. “Lakeshore East is a community everyone in our city and region can be proud of, and one that is truly worthy of the MPC Burnham Award.”

“Lakeshore East is an engineering marvel, a community development success story, and a model for reimagining vast, formerly industrial parcels,” said Barrett. “The design challenges alone, including integrating the community into a multi-level road network and transforming the former Illinois Center rail yard, make this a nationally significant development site. Locally, by honoring Lakeshore East with the Burnham Award, we’re celebrating a vibrant new neighborhood with access to the Loop, Chicago River, Lake Michigan, countless jobs, public transit and downtown destinations.

To learn more about the award, including a complete list of past winners, visit MPC’s web site.

Sponsors

PNC was the Presenting Sponsor of MPC’s Annual Luncheon.

The Allstate Insurance Company; ComEd, an Exelon Company; The Crown Family; and King Harris and the Harris Family Foundation were Co-Chair Sponsors of the event.

About PNC
The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (www.pnc.com) is one of the nation’s largest diversified financial services organizations providing retail and business banking; residential mortgage banking; specialized services for corporations and government entities, including corporate banking, real estate finance and asset-based lending; wealth management; asset management and global fund services. Follow @PNCNewson Twitter for breaking news, updates and announcements from PNC.

About Metropolitan Planning Council
Since 1934, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has been dedicated to shaping a more sustainable and prosperous greater Chicago region. As an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, MPC serves communities and residents by developing, promoting and implementing solutions for sound regional growth. Stay up to date on MPC’s news and projects at www.metroplanning.org, on Facebook, and on Twitter at @Metroplanners. The hashtag for today’s luncheon was #MPC2011AL. 

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