CHICAGO (AP) — Promising to commit to the neighborhood, executives with the upscale grocery chain Whole Foods announced plans Wednesday to build a store in the heart of one of Chicago’s most impoverished and crime-plagued areas.
However, Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb had almost no answers for how the company — known for its organic and expensive fare — would follow through with the promise to make the store more affordable, leaving residents and experts skeptical.
“It is a bit too pricey for this area,” said 57-year-old retiree Patricia Jackson who’s lived in Englewood for years. “I don’t see it making it in this neighborhood.”
Located roughly 10 miles south of downtown, Englewood is one of the city’s roughest neighborhoods. It’s part of a police district that saw a roughly 40 percent increase in homicides last year, boarded up homes are increasingly common as the neighborhood has lost population, and fresh food options are limited.
The dirt and weed lot where the store will go has been vacant for decades.
City officials touted the new store as a way to help reduce so-called food deserts, pockets of the city where residents don’t have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has put a spotlight on the concept with the help of first lady Michelle Obama, who grew up in the city, and a push from retailers including Walgreen Co.
The city is also providing an approximately $10 million subsidy for parts of the Whole Foods project. Development of the project — including priming the lot — will get the money in special taxing district funds.
The new 18,000-sqaure-foot location is set to open in 2016, not far from a discount grocery store and across from Kennedy-King College, which is part of a system of community colleges run by city officials. The store is expected to create about 100 jobs and partner with the college’s culinary program.
“We’re going to do it an inclusive manner, a respectful manner. The first step is to listen to what people in Englewood actually want,” Robb said. “This is not a helicopter in … This is a situation where we want to start to meet people and learn and listen.”
Robb and other officials said a Whole Foods that opened in Detroit in June may serve as a blueprint. Suppliers there agreed to lower prices as a way to fill a void in the area — but the comparison may not be fully accurate.
Detroit’s new store is located in the Midtown neighborhood, which is one of the most resurgent pockets of the city with people moving back in. It’s also where Wayne State University and the Detroit Institute of Arts are located.
Officials with Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market Inc. didn’t fully address the discrepancy Wednesday.
But the new store could be another way that Whole Foods is trying to stay competitive by appealing to a broader audience and shedding its “Whole Paycheck” image of being unaffordable. In particular, the company has expanded its selection of packaged store-brand products, many of which fall under the “365” label.
The store could have ability to make a dent in the problem if residents respond to having more options and the prices are right, said Mari Gallagher, who runs a research and consulting firm that has studied Chicago food deserts for years.
“It’ll be an interesting experiment to see how that store does. Over the long run it could be the kind of project that could not only improve health,” but also economic development in the area, she said.
Meanwhile, some residents of the Englewood are said they were eager for the new business.
Bettina Hall, 55, was wrapping up grocery shopping Wednesday at a nearby Aldi. The self-employed woman said she wouldn’t rely on Whole Foods for all her groceries but her husband would like it.
“He’s a vegetarian,” she said. “They carry a lot of things he likes to buy.”
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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