Monday, December 12, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || UPDATED: 7:21 p.m.
The Village Free Press, in coordination with Maywood Trustee Isiah Brandon, who secured one of two locations, will host two public meetings to explore the ramifications of Aldi’s recent announcement that it plans to close its Maywood store, located at 1008 S. 17th Ave., on Christmas Eve.
The first meeting will take place on Thursday, Dec. 15 at the Maywood Public Library, 121 S. 5th Ave., from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The second meeting will take place on Friday, Dec. 16 at Proviso Missionary Baptist Church, 1116 S. 5th Ave., from 6:30 p.m to 8:30 p.m.
Village officials and employees will be in attendance at either meeting, while residents will have the opportunity to voice their concerns at both. We’ll also explore possible solutions to the numerous problems that may arise in the wake of the Aldi store closing.
Special thanks to the Maywood Public Library (and its director, Stan Huntington), and Proviso Missionary Baptist Church (and its pastor, Bishop Claude Porter) for opening their doors wide open on such short notice.
What Aldi’s exit means for Maywood
To many people, the discount grocery store, which has been a staple presence on Madison Street since 1994, seemed like the last business that would leave a community in desperate need of affordable groceries.
The Germany-based company’s decision seems even more confusing considering that, according to a November article in Consumer Affairs, it plans on opening 500 more stores by 2018. Currently, Aldi operates around 1,500 stores across the country.
In a statement released last week, Aldi officials didn’t go into details about the company’s decision to close, although Maywood officials have noted that they were told that the reason is because the store was under-performing. What, precisely, that means, no one has yet to say.
But that’s beyond the point. Stores open and close based on a host of reasons. And by no means is Aldi, a for-profit entity, required to explain its business strategy to Maywood residents — most of whom have shopped, and will continue to shop, elsewhere.
The people who will bear the brunt of Aldi’s exit are, as is the case with most decisions made by corporations and governments, the vulnerable — the elderly, the poor, the disabled.
On a macro level, the store closing only exacerbates the problem of Maywood’s already insufficient commercial property tax base. This will only be yet another vacant building to dot the village’s already much too blighted landscape and to add to the daily stresses of the town’s police, fire and public works departments.
Aldi’s loss also means that Maywood will have the unenviable distinction of being the only municipality among those with which it shares a common border that does not harbor at least one international, national or even regional full-service grocery store chain.
The absence of a large-scale grocery retailer like Jewel-Osco or Meijer means that the local food landscape will worsen for Maywood residents who either desire or are forced by circumstances to shop within the village for their groceries and household needs.
Those residents will be even more reliant on a handful of dispersed neighborhood establishments whose offerings may not be as affordable as those sold by larger retailers (because the smaller stores don’t have the advantage of scale) and may not be as fresh or plentiful or reliable (because the smaller stores don’t have the benefit of sophisticated supply chains).
Stores like Walgreens or Family Dollar can’t seriously fall into the category of full-service grocery stores, but they do offer at least some array of grocery and household items.
Locating the vulnerable
The bottom line is that, although the majority of Maywood residents can drive to other communities in order to do shopping, there is a critical mass of residents who likely don’t have this option.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, which relies on 2010 U.S. Census data, provides a snapshot of where those residents may be and it turns out that many of them live within a square mile of the soon-to-close Aldi store.
Although no Census tract in Maywood is designated by the USDA as a food desert, according to the agency’s original measure, there are multiple census tracts in the village that come very close.
According to the USDA’s original measure, a food desert is a low-income census tract where a significant number or share of residents is more than one mile (in an urban setting) or 10 miles (in a rural setting) from the supermarket.
No census tracts shown on the USDA’s Food Desert Locator quite meet that standard; however, that map was devised before Aldi closed.
According to the USDA’s analysis of 2010 U.S. Census data, more than 1,400 low-access seniors (those living more than a half-mile from the nearest supermarket) were in the four census tracts closest to Aldi. And more than 2,800 low-access children, ages 0 to 17, were in those four census tracts.
How many seniors and children among that population relied on Aldi for groceries, including fresh fruit and vegetables, is currently not known.
It’s worth exploring, though, so that these residents can know what resources are available to them that will make their post-Aldi lives easier.
What’s the impact on your taxes?
According to village officials, the Maywood Aldi wasn’t exactly a heavyweight in terms of its contribution to sales and property taxes. The company took advantage of multiple rebates and subsidies.
In 1992, according to the Good Jobs First subsidy tracker, Maywood agreed to grant Aldi tax relief in the form of a local sales tax rebate, which was designed to help offset construction and environmental remediation costs.
The local subsidy was valued at $390,000, but so far it hasn’t been confirmed how much of the subsidy Aldi utilized or if the company was given any other subsidies after that point.
According to Cook County records, Aldi’s property tax bill ranged from a low of $3,705 in 2011 to a high of $4,923 in 2015.
So far, we don’t know how much total revenue the village received annually from Aldi in the form of sales and property taxes, license fees, permits and other forms of revenue. That would be worth exploring in order to concretely evaluate the fiscal impact of the store’s closing.
Some other things to think about
When the Maywood Aldi closes, another vacant commercial property will be added to the list of abandoned buildings that will need to be secured, monitored and maintained.
It would help to know which entity, Aldi or Maywood, will bear the financial burden of making sure that this property doesn’t become a community nuisance. And how much taxpayer money will be used to avoid that unwelcome reality.
The big, big picture
If you get a chance to read the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s Maywood Retail Market Analysis (a draft copy of the document is available below this article and by clicking on the maps below), you’ll notice that Maywood’s dearth of grocery stores is just an aspect of a much larger absence.
Maywood sits within a trade area that is roughly 125 square miles in size and serves an area where households spend $6.6 billion on retail goods in any given year, CMAP estimates.
“The trade area has approximately 19 shopping centers, most of which have GLA [gross leasable area] between 325,000 and 650,000 square feet and the median GLA is 450,000 square feet,” CMAP notes.
“Maywood has approximately 90 to 120 retail establishments, none of which are part of a major shopping center,” according to CMAP. “Retail within this community is approximately half retail stores while the other half is food service establishments. Most of the retail businesses occupy smaller retail spaces, as approximately 95% of the establishments occupy less than 10,000 square feet and around 50% occupy spaces less than 2,500 square feet.”
Maywood’s $6.6 billion trade area (maps by CMAP)
Maywood’s wider commercial dilemma is that it has no major shopping centers and retail establishments located within its borders, which means it doesn’t benefit from the sales and property taxes, the permits, the fees and fines (etc.) that all of that commercial activity generates.
Spatially, Maywood is dominated by single- and multi-family housing, relative to other suburbs (even much smaller ones). And for revenue, it largely depends on property taxes from homeowners.
An important question that needs to be posed to village officials for future consideration is whether or not they have a comprehensive action plan for addressing this big picture issue.
Below is CMAP’s draft retail market analysis for Maywood (recommendations are on pages 5-7):