(Businessweek) — In a retail desert on the South Side of Chicago, amid vacant lots and signs promoting “affordable bankruptcy,” sits a highly contested 200-acre plot that’s the future of Wal-Mart (WMT). The company famous for low prices and high growth is nearly tapped out in the sticks and suburbs. Today, just 47 of its 4,300 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores are in big cities, and most of those are in Dallas and Houston. Urban America is the company’s last frontier.
Since 2006 a single Wal-Mart has been homesteading in Austin, a mostly African American Chicago community with an unemployment rate of 40 percent, its alderman says. Now the company wants to put two dozen more stores in the city, including a 145,000-square-foot Supercenter on that 200-acre plot. In an area ravaged by poverty and desperate for the 400 jobs the Supercenter would provide, you’d think this would have been a slam dunk. It was not