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2008-07-04
Rockford, IL. Wal-Martís 4th Superstore In Legal Limbo

How many Wal-Mart does one community need? That's a question that city officials in Rockford, Illinois -- a community of roughly 155,000 people -- have never asked themselves. The city already has three Wal-Mart supercenters. There's a Wal-Mart on West Riverside Boulevard, one on Northridge Drive, and one on Walton Street. But building number 4 supercenter on South Alpine Road has become a major problem for Wal-Mart. Instead of a grand opening, Wal-Mart's application led to a courtroom. Rockford calls itself "the Forest City, where you can find affordable homes on tree-lined streets in friendly neighborhoods." The city boasts that it's the home of Jane the dinosaur, and the rock group Cheap Trick. They don't mention the home of Cheap Imports -- but if a 4th Wal-Mart superstore goes up, the city could boast of its Retail Dinosaurs one day. Litigation has stalled that 4th superstore, which was first unveiled in 2005. The Aldermen in Rockford blessed the project back in April of 2006, according to the Rockford Register Star. But no construction ever took place, because a company called ADY of Illinois, Inc. sued the city, Wal-Mart, and the developer. The Peoria, Illinois-based developer, Waldschmidt Development Corp, says ADY's lawsuit has been rejected -- but an appeal may be filed in the case, further dragging on the timeline. "We didn't think the case had merit when it was filed, and we still don't think it has any merit," a spokesman for the developer told The Star. ADY will be in court on July 16th, possibly to file its appeal. The long legal delay, combined with Wal-Mart's change in growth plans, have cast a shadow over the 4th supercenter store in Rockford. According to The Star, Wal-Mart is the biggest taxpayer in Rockford, and the third-largest employer with about 2,750 employees. The Alpine Road site is near Jefferson High School, and has drawn fire for possible dangers it poses to students crossing the road, and skipping school to go shopping. One resident told the newspaper, "There are plenty of other businesses that the city could bring in, not just the same stuff we've always had. How many Wal-Marts do we need? People can drive the eight miles to shop at the one on State Street... Every time I drive by, I always look for some sort of construction or movement. I just don't want it here. I don't see it as this is the place to be."

What you can do: Rockford says that when it comes to shopping, "you never have to leave Rockford to be satisfied. You want it, we've got it. From antique malls to shopping malls to car malls. From "big box" retailers and superstores to specialty stores and boutiques. The city lists four major malls within its boundaries, and mentions many of the retail tenants by name, including Sears, JC Penney, Bergners, Marshall Field's -- but it doesn't mention Wal-Mart by name. "Shop 'Til You Drop," the city's Visitor's Bureau says. "Stay The Night And Shop Some More... We've got more than 30 antique shops, two MAJOR antique malls and more than a dozen weekend shows and flea markets. We're talking a weekend or more worth of antique shopping here, so you might want to make some hotel reservations before you visit. We've also got more than our share of shopping malls with everything from high-end retailers to national discounters and 'big box' chains. Add a liberal dose of specialty and garden shops along with a nice sprinkling of art galleries and you've got enough shopping to challenge all but the highest credit card limits. Charge!" Rockford clearly is trying to woo the speciality shopper, and downplay that 'big box' means Wal-Marts in every direction. Readers are urged to email Rockford Mayor Lawrence Morrissey at: Lawrence.Morrissey@rockfordil.gov with the following message: "Dear Mayor Morrissey, How many Wal-Mart's does Rockford really need? Your city might want to consider imposing a limit on acreage used for retail development in your city to just your major existing mall areas, and certainly impose a size cap on future retail stores. You are trying to attract everyone from antique shoppers to the cheap underwear crowd -- but when you pile on big box stores -- all you are doing is squeezing out the smaller, local or regional merchants. Another Wal-Mart superstore on Alpine Road will only kill off one or two smaller grocery stores -- and cannibalize Wal-Mart's existing stores. You already have four major malls areas in the city -- don't promote the spread of stand-alone boxes. If you have an empty box, fill it with another, but don't keep adding more. It would be the best thing for Rockford and its business community if the 4th Wal-Mart store never opened. It's not a healthy sign that Wal-Mart is now the 3rd largest employer in your city. When retail fortunes shift, you could be faced with three very large 'dark stores' to fill. Which is why Rockford also needs a demolition bond ordinance to help pay for the razing of empty retail boxes. It's time for Rockford to plan for how to deal with the over-saturation of Wal-Mart and other big box stores."










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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