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posted: 4/12/2014 8:00 AM

Walmart grocery coming to Des Plaines, but plans dropped for Rolling Meadows store

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  • Construction is underway to convert this storefront in Des Plaines to a new Walmart Neighborhood Market. The company has abandoned plans to open a similar grocery in Rolling Meadows.

      Construction is underway to convert this storefront in Des Plaines to a new Walmart Neighborhood Market. The company has abandoned plans to open a similar grocery in Rolling Meadows.
    Christopher Placek | Staff Photographer


One new Walmart Neighborhood Market grocery store is underway in Des Plaines, while the Rolling Meadows one is off the table.

The first Neighborhood Market in the suburbs will open later this summer at 727 W. Golf Road in Des Plaines.

However, the Market proposed for the vacant AMF Bowling Alley at 3245 Kirchoff Road in Rolling Meadows is no longer being pursued by Walmart, company spokeswoman Erica Jones said Friday.

Walmart's decision to abandon Rolling Meadows follows a January city council meeting in which aldermen worried that the store would create traffic problems for the nearby neighborhood.

City officials instead encouraged Walmart to take on the long-vacant Dominick's down the street, but Walmart brass said that site wasn't economically feasible.

"Unfortunately, the lack of timely progress on a mutually agreeable site plan exceeded the terms of our agreement with the seller and we will not be pursuing this project," Jones said Friday in a statement.

Rolling Meadows Mayor Tom Rooney said Friday's announcement by Walmart wasn't surprising, since the company hadn't submitted a revised set of plans to the city following the January council meeting. But he said it was the first time he heard officially that Walmart was no longer considering Rolling Meadows.

Rooney said he and some aldermen thought the store would have created traffic tie-ups on Kirchoff Road during busy times. He also said heavier usage of Library Road, a "lightweight" street that separated the bowling alley site from condos, wouldn't have been well-suited to delivery truck traffic.

"We're open to Walmart and their Neighborhood Store concept. It's just this particular site didn't seem to fit," Rooney said. "I have no doubt we're just going to get creamed by some folks who want development, but we really can't be pushing square pegs into round holes."

Walmart officials did not say if they are pursuing additional suburban locations for their Neighborhood Market brand, so for now, the Des Plaines store will be the national retailer's first foray into the Chicago suburbs with the smaller grocery stores.

The Neighborhood Markets are seen as significant competition to similarly sized grocers.

Walmart opened its first Neighborhood Market in 1998 in the company's home city of Bentonville, Ark. Four stores have opened in Chicago since 2011, and two more openings are planned for later this year and in 2015.

The stores on average are 38,000 square feet -- significantly smaller than a traditional 182,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter. Groceries make up about three-quarters of what is offered at a Neighborhood Market, compared to about a third at supercenters.

Renovations are now underway at the Des Plaines store, an existing 39,000-square-foot space at the Market Place Shopping Center. The building housed a Butera for some 25 years and then International Fresca Market for only about six months, but has sat vacant for the last two years.

As interior renovations are underway, the store is still waiting for approval from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District for a new grease trap for the deli area. Building crews are also installing a new truck dock in the back of the store.

The Des Plaines city council this week approved sign variations for the front of the store: a 125-square-foot primary sign and an 18-square-foot secondary sign indicating the store's pharmacy entrance.

International Fresca Market had a 100-square-foot sign on the building. However, the council previously approved variations for the neighboring Planet Fitness, which has a 148-square-foot sign.

No other council approval is necessary, since a grocery store is an approved use for the site under the current zoning code. The city has reviewed Walmart's renovation plans and issued a permit allowing renovation work on site.

The store is expected to have 95 employees.

"While I may not be particularly fond of Walmart, I'm (also) not fond of empty stores," said Des Plaines 6th Ward Alderman Mark Walsten, chairman of the council's community development committee.

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