Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced the formation of a high level City task force, to be chaired by Deputy Mayor Steve Koch, to assist in marketing vacant Dominick’s stores, in order to ensure smooth transitions of those stores that have been purchased by other grocers and to aggressively market those that are still unaccounted for. At the Mayor’s direction, the task force will focus on three critical issues: the specific sites with the vacant Dominick’s stores and the associated economic impacts of the closings; ensuring access to fresh food and vegetables in key areas; and protecting and supporting workers who are affected by the store closings in any fashion possible.
“I have worked very hard during my term to make sure that every Chicagoan has access to grocery stores and other sources that can offer fresh produce and goods at affordable prices. Based on our track record, I am confident we will find operators for stores in every market where there are not sufficient alternatives,” Mayor Emanuel said. “It is essential that as we go through this transition we do all we can to ensure that these stores are returned to active use, so we can minimize impact on food access in our communities and ensure that these economic anchors continue to benefit our neighborhoods. It is also critical that we do whatever we can to support the workers at these stores and their families.”
The task force will have representation from the City Council, labor, city departments and agencies as well as industry experts.
Dominick’s parent company, Safeway, announced in November it was pulling out of the Chicago area market by the end of the year. The company has announced plans for three of its 13 stores in Chicago, which will be sold to Mariano’s. In anticipation that one or more stores may not have an immediate operator to succeed Dominick’s, this task force is being created to ensure that these stores are returned to market quickly and efficiently, to the benefit of the communities and the workers.
The task force will be led by Deputy Mayor Steve Koch and supported by Commissioner Andrew Mooney of the Department of Housing and Economic Development, and will include representatives of City Council, industry, and organized labor. It will seek public input in those neighborhoods most affected by the shutdown. The task force will work with Safeway and the local store owners to help identify potential new users, and will utilize consultants with contacts in the retail industry to assist. Finding new users for the sites will be done in the context of broader economic goals and objectives in the surrounding communities.
While finding new operators for the stores is a key objective of the task force, it is just one of its objectives. The Task Force will also be charged with ensuring that the progress the City has made in combating food deserts in the city is not affected by these store closures. Since Mayor Emanuel took office, at least 18 new grocery stores have been built or are in construction across the city, including 8 in food desert areas. Another 6 are in planning. The Mayor has led an effort to reduce the number of impoverished people living in food deserts by over 20 percent.
Finally, there are thousands of Chicago workers affected by these store closures, and the Task Force will be called upon to marshal all of the resources of the city to protect the jobs of the workers, where possible, and provide training, resources and support to workers and their families. The Task Force will work directly with labor representatives to help seek opportunities for employment with any new operator of a location. It will also draw on the resources of other public agencies, such as the Chicago Cook Workforce Board and the City Colleges of Chicago, to provide assistance to workers who are laid off as a result of the store sales.
The Task Force will begin its work immediately.
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