A sizable chunk of southern Skokie is going to look much different soon as the proposal for a massive new Wal-Mart cleared its final local barrier.
The Skokie Village Board approved the construction of a new development near the intersection of Touhy and St. Louis Avenues Monday night that will be anchored by a 150,000 square foot Wal-Mart Supercenter. Clark Street Development gained approval to construct the complex that is scheduled to not only include a Wal-Mart, but also two banks, a strip mall that will have businesses such as quick serve restaurants and cell phone stores and an office building. Construction is expected to begin later this year or early next year, with an opening occurring in late 2013 or early 2014.
Building upon its two locations in Niles, Wal-Mart will be the center of the complex. The retail giant is promising a store featuring groceries, a bakery a delicatessen, produce and frozen foods in terms of food options. In addition the store will have a pharmacy, apparel and electronics among many other items. Approximately 350 people will be employed at the store, according to store officials. Peter Eisenberg, a principal with Clark Street Development projected the Wal-Mart will bring in $1.1 million a year into the village in additional sales and real estate taxes.
The seven-part proposal met with only two objections working its way through various committees, but the development firm came out successful on both fronts Monday night.
First, there was concern about how long Wal-Mart would have a seasonal sales operation outside. A proposal was floated that there by a uniform code for all retailers as to when they can operate outside as there is not one on the books right now. The village board unanimously decided just to let Wal-Mart conduct such business from March to October and the situation as a whole may be looked at by staff in the future, but there was no guarantee.
Also, Clark Street took exception to a request by village staff to contribute $50,000 to a traffic control study on Howard Street. This was an outgrowth regarding the traffic coming in and out of the proposed complex which is located in an industrial part of Skokie.
“Our feeling is we are spending tens of millions of dollars on this development,” Eisenberg said. “We are spending $1.5 million for cost site improvements. We feel this new development will more than adequately pay for this.”
Clark Street acquired the property in 2011.
By a 5-2 margin, village trustees voted against the recommendation of its staff. “I still believe most traffic is going to come out on the main street and go over to McCormick,” said trustee Michael Lorge. “It just seemed too far remote in terms of potential traffic that it was going to be something that we should hold them to.”
Trustee Randy Roberts was disappointed with that particular vote, but overall pleased with the prospects of the new complex.
“I thought it was a matter of principle on behalf of the taxpayers,” Roberts noted. “We don’t know what the traffic will be but life will go on I think this is a great day for the village.”
The question now becomes what the final impact will be for the village of Skokie, local businesses and consumers.
For Joe Schwieterman, a professor who studies urban economics at DePaul University, says this is a net plus for the village, largely due to the additional money heading into the village coffers.
“Wal-Mart is the ultimate sales tax revenue generator,” Schwieterman said. “They have a huge service area so they can play one town against each other. Retail has been flat for years north of the city so these opportunities are relatively rare.”
But Schwieterman does toss in a note of caution for the village. “The downside is Wal-Mart will siphon business from existing retailers and the cultural effects on the retail experience. There is a sameness to Wal-Mart. You lose the diversity of the smaller retailers vying for business.”