Residents in Elmwood Park got the opportunity to look at plans for a proposed Walmart Neighborhood Market on Thursday. They also had the chance to talk directly to officials from the company itself as well as the developer, the architect, and a company attorney.
Around 100 people walked through Elmwood Park Village Hall to look at various photos and plans for the site where the former Kohl's grocery store once operated at 3131 Lathrop Avenue.
Most of the crowd, like Brenda Sims, said they object to the development.
"We have a 24-hour Walmart operation two miles down the road, and Piggly Wiggly is right here," she said. "And that intersection of Durand and Lathrop is dangerous. Every week there's a serious accident there so we don't need more traffic."
More negative than positive comments were definitely the theme of the evening. Residents in Elmwood Park seemed to echo how their neighbors think in at the intersection of Highways 20 and 31.
Vicki Spanske, owner of Share a Dream Used Bookstore, said she had no idea the Walmart was even a possibility until she read a story in the newspaper.
"We're going to get booted out and no one could tell us?" she asked. "I need to find a new place, and I'm looking, but it's not easy."
Spanske said she would still object to Walmart going there even if her business weren't being affected.
"It's not value added," she stated. "We have a grocery store right there and a pharmacy across the street."
Village President Audrey Viau disagreed.
"We've always had two grocery stores in the village, until Kohl's closed," she said. "That corner is an eyesore, and this will make it look better."
Local real estate agent Carolyn Jacobson was frustrated with the majority reaction.
"People need to understand that successful businesses bring in more business," she said. "This is going to improve the corner."
She wanted to know where village residents have been all the years Kohl's has sat empty.
"Neighbors weren't complaining before, but now that there could be improvement on that site and it's Walmart, now they want to complain," she concluded.
Charles Gasser said he hasn't made up his mind.
"That's why I'm here, to get information," he said.
The proposed $10 million Walmart development would include demolishing the existing building and pushing the store back so that it sits on an existing residential parcel. Deb Tomczyk, attorney for Walmart, confirmed the company is under contract for both the Kohl's property and the home behind it.
To move forward, though, the village would have to rezone the residential parcel to commercial use. The boundary between the village and the City of Racine runs parellel to the front of Kohl's, putting the building in the village and the parking lot in Racine.
Viau says it's a good move for the village because moving the building brings the entire development into Elmwood Park. A zoning public hearing is not yet scheduled.