The village of Tinley Park, Illinois has been growing rapidly over the past decade and a half. The village in 2006 had a population 58,595, about 20,000 more people than it had in 1990. It also has 17 Wal-Mart stores within 20 miles of the village’s borders, including a supercenter less than 4 miles away in Orland Hills, Illinois. The Village is located in the “dynamic and fast-growing Interstate 80 Corridor” of Metro Chicago, according to the village’s website. This community is only 21 miles from downtown Chicago. It has “easy access” to a trade area of 600,000 people and a metropolitan market of 9 million. Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki says over 4 million people reside within a 25 mile radius of his village. “Our excellent location has attracted continuing prime business and hospitality industry development… Tinley Park is home to major shopping areas serving our growing community and the surrounding region.” The Mayor is proud of the work his office has done with the business community “to revitalize our historic downtown, developing carefully planned incentives to encourage new construction and fa??ade improvements.” A major focus of the village’s economic development activity has been “the construction of an architecturally outstanding train station and an inviting town square,” which has made the Tinley Park downtown “a popular venue.” This week, according to the South Town Star newspaper, Wal-Mart tried to get village support for its 18th store in the area. But the giant retailer “got nothing but negative reaction,” according to the newspaper, when it unveiled its plans for a 24-hour super store at 191st Street. The location is near dozens of homes, so Tinley Park’s Plan Commission rejected Wal-Mart’s site plan. “The proximity of this big-box location (to the homes) … is totally unacceptable,” Commissioner Bob McClellan told Wal-Mart. His comments drew cheers from the audience of about 60 opponents to the plan. “The residents were here first.” A Chicago developer called Aetna Development has submitted plans for the “Prairie View Crossings,” which has no prairie and no view. The 370,000 s.f. retail complex is about the size of 8 football fields, not counting the parking lots. Within that complex, the shopping center would be anchored by a 176,000 sf. Wal-Mart supercenter. The 83 acre site is owned by the Lincoln-Way High School District 210. It was slated to be used for a high school at one time, and before that was just a sod farm. This is Aetna’s second bite of the apple, because it originally came in with a store that was over 200,000 s.f. in size. But the “smaller” store didn’t gain any accolades this time either. The Plan Commission, and the village’s planning director told Wal-Mart representatives that their project “lacked creativity,” and that they had failed to show why this land should be used for a retail mall. Tinley Park has a land use master plan which calls for this property to be used for a school, a government building or open space. “Is this development really necessary or desirable?” Commissioner Kevin Berry asked. The village’s planning director pointed out that nowhere else in Tinley Park does a huge retail project abut single-family homes. In other locations, either office uses or multi-family housing is placed in between shopping centers and single-family homes. Wal-Mart’s lawyer said Prairie View Crossings would generate $40 million in sales tax revenue and $27 million in property tax revenue over its first 20 years. He failed to calculate the cost of the project to the village. But Wal-Mart has to overcome the determined opposition of homeowners in the Brookside Glen subdivision, who argue that the enormous project will kick up traffic congestion and crime. Last month, 5 women were murdered in a Lane Bryant store across the street from where the proposed Wal-Mart would go.
Instead of a big box store, neighbors told the Plan Commission that the land should be used for smaller, locally-owned stores. “If it has to go commercial, why not make it a niche?” one neighbor testified. The Village has a Main Street Business Commission whose job it is “to help create an atmosphere in the village that is conducive for small business growth.” Readers are urged to send an email to Mayor Zabrocki at the village clerk’s office: [email protected] Tell the Mayor, “The idea of a village-scale Wal-Mart supercenter is an oxymoron. Your planning director is correct: the Wal-Mart plan as presented ‘lacks creativity.’ Tinley Park is proud of its efforts to keep its downtown vibrant and attractive. Wal-Mart works against that goal. This project is also inconsistent with your Master Plan. Once you reject this too-large proposal, I urge you to work with your Planning Department to put a size cap on retail buildings of 65,000 s.f. to prevent this kind of suburban sprawl proposal from coming to Tinley Park again. You have 17 Wal-Marts within 20 miles of Tinley Park. You can’t buy small town quality of life at a Wal-Mart supercenter — but once they take it away from you, you can’t get it back at any price. This project abuts residential homes, and is just not a compatible use with surrounding neighbors.”