Will the Cabrini Target be a job cornucopia?

The footprint of the last Cabrini Green high-rise to fall is still cluttered with chunks of concrete and debris. But where some see a pile of rubble on the Near North Side lot, officials at the retail giant Target see opportunity.

The Minnesota-based corporation announced yesterday that it's eying the swath of vacant lots that, just a few years ago, buzzed with hundreds of tenants. They're using jobs as a hook for support. According to company officials 38 percent of those new jobs would be reserved for public housing residents. All told, it would be around 75 jobs. Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) told the Sun-Times that the store could be "the start of an economic boom for the community."

But if the South Loop Target is any indicator, the quality of jobs may do little to lift former public housing residents out of poverty. That store opened in 2005 and a new Chicago Reporter analysis of federal employment data found:

  • More than half, or 53 percent, of the employees at the store earn less than $15,000 a year;
  • Only 8 percent of jobs pay at least $40,000. This small pool of jobs is likely held by managers and positions that Target told the CHA it won't guarantee for public housing residents.

All told, the quality of those jobs look a lot like those generated by Chicago's first Wal-Mart store, which opened in the Far West Side Austin community in 2006, an earlier Reporter analysis of the same employment data found.

It remains to be seen if the public will be asked to chip in to make the Near North Target a reality. As we pointed out in our investigation Loopholes back in January, that sort of support isn't always as clear as cutting a check to a developer or corporation.

What is clear is that the public has spent millions in recent years to assemble land, lay sewers, and roads for dozens of corporate retailers around the city in recent years. And it's questionable whether a sufficient number of quality jobs have followed. 
 

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