Mount Prospect, Illinois is slated to get a bigger Wal-Mart. That has officials in this community giddy with excitement. Although Wal-Mart may be growing, unfortunately the population in Mount Prospect is not doing the same. In 1990, there were 53,170 people in Mount Prospect. Almost two decades later, in 2007, there was only 53,711 people. That means Mount Prospect has had a net change of 32 new people in the community per year — not exactly the kind of figures that presage any major growth in the retail pie. But Village officials say that in a wounded economy, Wal-Mart is just what their community needs. The head of the Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce says Wal-Mart is a ‘smart move’ because shoppers are flocking to discount stores. “With the economy the way it is,?” explained the Chamber’s Executive Director, “people will be looking at every penny, so more people will be going to Wal-Mart. It’ll be a good thing for Mount Prospect overall.” The small business members that make up the lion’s share of the Chamber of Commerce might not agree with their paid staff — but many of those small businesses won’t be around to complain much longer. The Wal-Mart store already in Mount Prospect is roughly 100,000 s.f. and the company wants to add another 50,000s.f. to the store. According to the Chicago Daily Herald, “Wal-Mart recently asked for village approval to expand, which has yet to be granted. But there are good signs for the store.” The expansion has been approved by the village’s Planning and Zoning Board. The Trustees are expected to vote on the proposal next week.
Shoppers in Mount Pleasant have plenty of existing grocery stores to shop at, like White Hen, Jewel, Mizkan Americas, Dominick’s, Wally’s, etc. The expansion of the Wal-Mart discount store into a supercenter with a full-line grocery only transfers sales from existing merchants — because the population base in Mount Prospect does not warrant a major increase in supply. In May, 2008, the village completed a Retail Market Analysis. Mount Prospect has total retail sales of $494 million. Key findings from that report conclude that “Mount Prospect has a diverse and vital retail environment. It faces the challenge of developing policies that improve some aging and declining centers, provide support for well-anchored properties seeking to follow the latest in shopping center development trends, and continue its progress revitalizing Downtown Mount Prospect. Mount Prospect’s primary opportunity to attract high volume retailers is new market entrants because it no longer has the large vacant land parcels that bring new residential subdivisions and significant additional spending… Mount Prospect is fortunate to have anchors in its primary clusters. The challenge is protecting those anchors as high volume tenants seek to modernize their appeal to this market. The study says investors are considering redeveloping Mount Prospect’s largest sales tax producer, Randhurst Mall, and aging shopping centers in the Mount Prospect’s southern sector are challenged to retain their tenants.” The study specifically mentions Wal-Mart. “Wal-Mart recently announced initiatives to remodel stores and create smaller food markets. They continually evaluate location potential and close stores. With an aging Wal-Mart at Mount Prospect Plaza, the Village should carefully monitor the status of that store. Early and frequent contact with the property owner and local Wal-Mart executives shows interest in the company’s investment and provides an opportunity to prove that public private partnerships can enhance store performance.” Ironicallly, Mount Prospect is trying to revitalize its downtown, yet pursuing a big box strategy that will undermine that effort. Readers are urged to email Mount Prospect Mayor Irvana Wilks at [email protected] with the following message: “Mayor Wilks, Your village has spent a lot of time and effort studying your local retail market. You population base in the village has been stagnant since 1990. Your sales level per capita today is relatively strong compared to neighboring communities, but the more you become dependent on national chain stores, the less diversified your retail economy will become, and fewer local merchants will survive. The best way to destroy your local economy is to kill off the local merchant. Allowing Wal-Mart to expand means destroying other existing grocery stores. The store they have now in Mount Pleasant is actually big enough to be remodeled into a supercenter, according to Wal-Mart’s latest growth plans. The location of the existing Wal-Mart will do nothing to attract shoppers downtown, and your efforts to revitalize the downtown have not, and will not, be aided by a larger Wal-Mart. Don’t just give Wal-Mart a blank check to expand. This project adds little economic value to your local trade area, and will only precipitate the further decline of the small business class in Mount Prospect. I urge you to reject Wal-Mart’s expansion.”