6 Reasons Why I’m Leery About Whole Foods Coming to Englewood


Last week, the news reported that Whole Foods Market, an expensive, upscale grocery store will be coming to Englewood, a neighborhood with high levels of poverty and poor eating habits.  It is also one of many communities designated as a food desert. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as:

neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. The lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

There are mixed opinions about this super strange combination, mine included. While it appears that Whole Foods locating to this food desert is a good thing – and it is on the surface, residents and Chicagoans need to always question the motives of the government officials at all levels, especially when they “offer” to help people.  Your radar really needs to really be on high alert when people with self-serving interests and big money – government and corporations – express an interest in helping people in areas like Englewood, people with little money, little education, lack of political knowledge or interests and are on survival mode. This is the easiest group to exploit on so many levels.

Following are six reasons why I’m leery about Whole Foods coming to Englewood…and you should be, too.

1. Chicago has always tried to “take” Englewood back

I was listening to WVON 1690 years ago and one of the personalities said that Englewood was eight minutes from the Loop, and the proposed location is less than five minutes from the Dan Ryan expressway and CTA’s red line.  I am almost certain that the Chicago’s leadership has plans to change the color of this community.

2. Color and class change

Whole Foods Markets are typically located in communities where people with high incomes and education levels reside. Their eating habits food selections are way different from those of Englewood residents.

I was listening to a representative from Nielsen, the rating company, on the Steve Harvey Morning Show who shared that low-income people shop at drug stores, dollar stores and local stores in the community.

I think that making this store an anchor store in this community is the first step to changing the class and color of Englewood. I really believe that within the next five to 10 years, the community is going to be mostly white and middle- to upper-income if the people of Englewood aren’t diligent, speak their opinions and fight to save their neighborhoods.

3. Rahm wants a tech community

I’ve been reading stories in Crain’s Chicago about Rahm’s efforts to “lure” techies from the suburbs to Chicago.  You know this is northern suburbs, right?

I also read an article that stated that a typical web user is white, middle or upper class, English speaking, higher educated and have a high speed connection.  This may be the new “face” of Englewood.

I predict that Englewood will either become a tech community; a college community like UIC on Halsted; or upscale like the communities where they tore down the public houses and replaced them with condos and other housing options that former residents could not afford. Or, 63rd and Halsted could also become a “white area” surrounded by the rest of the community. Either way, a class and color change is on the way.

And, yes, current residents will have to fight like hell to keep their properties because the government is going to try to price them out.

4. Whole Foods is coming because Rahm asked

Not because they wanted to. If Whole Foods REALLY wanted to serve this community, they would have answered the call in 2006 when Mari Gallagher first reported about food deserts. They didn’t. This leads me to believe that had it not been for Rahm’s $10 million dollar incentive, Englewood would not be on their radar.

5. Ample time to “clean house”

The store is expected in 2016. That gives the city more than enough time to get the undesirables out of the community and clean up the riff raff just like they did with the public housing units. They are currently “cleaning house” in Bronzeville.

6. Transportation

As I sit and write this article, I am beginning to believe that, although the Red Line was in need of serious repair, there are greater intents behind those repairs than the public would ever know. I can’t say that they were for the current residents. This is an additional incentive to “lure” those techies to this area of Englewood.

In addition to being eight minutes from the Loop and less than five minutes from the Dan Ryan expressway and CTA’s red line, the proposed location for Whole Foods sits will also be accessible by the 63rd Street and Halsted buses.

Those are just six reasons why I am leery about Whole Foods Coming to Englewood. I think this arrangement has more to do with the bottom lines and images of Chicago government and corporations than a legitimate concern about the health of the people of Englewood. And I truly believe that the ultimate goal is to change the class and color of the community.


Image: The Joint Blog

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  1. I have worked with families within the Englewood community for over 20 years. Never have the neighbors been so construction-distracted in all the time I’ve traveled this area. My first visual was noting not one Black construction worker on these teams of men; my second was the increased police protection surrounding these workers. Mind you, there were plenty of white and spanish laborers. I have observed the store front language changes; I hear the latin music in the summer breeze; I see the young and middle aged whites entering and leaving homes, with keys. When the announcement of a Whole Food store surfaced, my friends weren’t surprised. Many of them were first to pluck some of the digs of Bronzeville, South Michigan, Roosevelt Road and Chatham. It’s those folks in the streets of Englewood, who are being bamboozled. They don’t see the train headed their way. As one parent stated, “As long as dey accept da Link card; dey alright wit me”. Little do they know …

  2. The people of Englewood are about to be removed right before their own eyes and don’t even realize it. And the bad thing is, if you try to educate them on the issue, they won’t believe you. I hope they wake up before its the government “movers” comes through.

  3. And now we know this to be true…what next? It’ll be on us to advicate because we know how much we beleive how our alderman are in the fix.

  4. Rats…typo got me — advOcate and belIEve and aldermEn..
    So let’s do over:

    “And now we know this to be true….what next? It’ll be on us to advocate because we know how much we believe how our aldermen are in the fix.”

  5. Rahm isn’t interested in moving people out of Englewood. He’s got what he wanted. He only made the announcement so he could lessen the opposition against the rail yard. Hr got the rail yard and all the people hollowing and screaming were quiet. Now, he is going to raid the TIF’s and port their money to other projects.

    Rahm knows how Wall Street works and that anything can happen between now and 2016 so if the store is never built he can deflect the blame away from him.

  6. I would disagree based on what what’s been published in Crain’s Chicago and other Chicago publications. I did read in the Sun-Times that the announcement could had been a response to his silence on the food desert issue. But we have to look at the patterns in the city…Englewood is going to be a tech community, a college community or some other vision that doesn’t include current residents, if only in some parts of the community.

  7. I’ve been attending the last several meetings of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood (RAGE) meetings and not depending on the traditional media for information so I have a different view as well as my own personal experiences.

    Englewood a tech community. NOT. The Norfolk Southern rail yard is not high tech, the Englewood Flyover portion of the Grand Crossing Rail Project is not high tech. Englewood has been a guinea pig community for public policy for the past 50 years.

    As an alumnus of Lindblom (82), I rode the 63rd street bus when there were no Antioch homes, Bernard Place development,Englewood/Urban Prep building and the countless social service agencies. They used Englewood residents to integrate the schools on the southwest side and try out ways to alleviate overcrowding like the 45-15 plan (aka Track E). Now we know Track E doesn’t work and they are re segregating the schools on the southwest side, while the last general high school in Englewood is probably not going to survive the next round of school closings.

    When they built the 63rd Halsted mall 30+ years ago it was suppose to gentrify the area. The only problem was no one told Sears executives who closed the 63rd Halsted store to save their butts about the failing State Street store. So we saw a department store, movie theater and grocery store all closed.

    Then in the 90’s someone thought had the great idea of bringing Kennedy King College(KKC) and numerous social service agencies to 63rd street would change Englewood. Along with all of this there was going to be a state of the art Jewel’s grocery store built. KKC was built, social service agencies were built, vacant storefronts demolished. Nothing has changed, the vacant storefronts still vacant and no grocery store.

    fast forward to 2011, the idea was floated to bring Walmart to this site and it would transform the community. Now 2013, its Whole Foods.

    There has been $100 million+ public and private money pumped into this community over the last 30+ years and nothing has changed for African Americans. African American students are not matriculating at the same rate of Latino students at Kennedy King, vacant lots from the 60-80’s are still vacant, numerous social service agencies are in and servicing Englewood.

    None of this says “tech” community. The mayor needed the land in Englewood to complete his vision of Chicago being a transportation hub and having Whole Foods agree to build a store on the taxpayers dime sounds good. A store that cost 3.5 million and Whole Foods getting $10 million is a deal I’m quite sure Jewel’s, Roundy’s(Mariano’s), Safeway(Dominick’s) would have all taken.

    Everytime a store that sells any type of premium items opens up in our community, the gentrification argument comes out. As a Chatham resident, I have heard this countless time. They aren’t bringing in these stores for “those” people. They said it for the Jewel Grand Bazaar, Best Buy, Lowes, Home Depot, Cineplex Oden(Chatham 14) and Target. All the stores are oepn except Best Buy and the median income has not significantly shifted.

    Bottom line, if the store is built it will be successful but it is a big “if” because Wall street did not look on this very favorably and they are bigger bullies than Rahm. If Englewood changes demographically it will because of other reasons and not Whole Foods.

  8. Ok, I can go with that. I’m not familiar with the history of the community. So, do you think this was Rahm’s response to the accusations of not addressing food deserts in Chicago?

    And where can we go to find out the the city’s plans for different neighborhoods?

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