The city of Streator, Illinois, has easy access to three interstates (I-55, I-80, and I-39), and according to the local Chamber of Commerce, “lower overhead, and an able workforce.” The city boasts that K-Mart and Kroger “have all thrived” in their small community. The city had a population of around 14,190 in the 2000 census. They also have a Wal-Mart supercenter knocking on the door. According to The Ottawa Times newspaper, Wal-Mart submitted plans in February for a 156,400 s.f. superstore on Route 23, but the company recently submitted slightly smaller plans, around 152,000 sf. They slightly increased the size of the parking lot to 758 spaces. The store is similar to the Wal-Mart supercenter in Ottawa, Illinois, some 18 miles away. In fact, Streator shoppers have four Wal-Mart supercenters within 30 miles, in Ottawa, Pontiac, Peru and Morris, Illinois. Wal-Mart has told local officials that this supercenter, which will have a brick fa??ade, will have 35 features promoting energy sustainability, such as large roof skylights and sensor lighting in the refrigeration sections of the store. The store itself, designed on a single level, is energy inefficient, and environmentally wasteful. The project is expected to come before the city’s Plan Commission on September 11th, and then to the City Council on September 19th. Obviously, the skids have been greased in Streator, and Wal-Mart says they could start building the store within six to nine months after its site plan is approved. The construction of this supercenter will almost assuredly cause the closure of the city’s Kmart store, and could have an adverse impact on local grocers as well.
The comments submitted to the Ottawa Times about this Wal-Mart proposal represent the typical mixed reviews such a huge retail project receives. “Why do we need another Wal-Mart in this county?” one reader asks. ” It has probably been one of the biggest contributors to the dark side of capitalism.” But another reader responded, “I think we need something in this town. Everyone around us has one, why not us? Our Kmart is the most raggedy department store I have ever set foot in.” The quintessential American “keeping up with the Jones” remark. Wal-Mart satisfies the small town malaise that “we need something” and the feeling that if all the towns around us have a Starbucks or a Blockbuster, why not us? The difference is that a 12,000 s.f. Blockbuster store, and a 156,400 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter are in two different growth leagues. Supercenters were never meant to serve a small, neighborhood trade area. They are regional facilities, and Wal-Mart has been severely criticized by stock analysts who complain that the retailer has so saturated its footprint, that it is reducing the profitability of its own stores. As Sam Walton wrote, “We became our own competition.” The fact is, there is no market need for another supercenter in this trade area. Wal-Mart already captures most of the Streator market with its existing supercenters. This project comes up in a few weeks for review. Readers should email the Streator Plan Commission at: [email protected] Tell them, “Streator is complete without a Wal-Mart supercenter. You can kill off the Kmart, you can close a local grocery store, but bringing in a new Wal-Mart will not create an economic renaissance in Streator — just more low wage always jobs.”