BOSTON — Wal-Mart could blow past the competition in getting into the Windy City. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer has applied to demolish a vacant shampoo factory to build a store stretching a city block on Chicago’s west side.

If all goes well with permitting, Wal-Mart will open a 150,000-square-foot store in spring 2005, after a year of construction, said John Bisio, Wal-Mart’s Midwest regional manager for community affairs.

According to their Web sites, Wal-Mart and Target have stores ringing the nation’s third-largest city, but none within the city. “We’ve been giving this consideration for at least the last couple of years,” Bisio said. “It’s something of a challenge to find land in urban areas that’s not cost-prohibitive.”

Although large enough to be a supercenter, the store will not carry groceries, mainly because of the limits of current distribution capabilities, Bisio said.

Alderman Emma Mitts, who oversees the 37th ward where the store will open, said the neighborhood has been mainly serviced by beauty salons, gas stations and liquor stores. It has benefited from the recent arrivals of a Cub Foods and an Old Navy.

An Arkansas native who grew up shopping at Wal-Mart, Mitts described her current constituency as 73 percent African American, 25 percent Hispanic and 2 percent white and other groups. She said residents are eager for new development and for the 250-plus jobs the store is expected to create.

The site is accessible by public transportation, said Bisio, anticipating the store will draw traffic from other neighborhoods as well.

In their quest to conquer dense urban areas — arguably the last domestic frontier for big discounters — Wal-Mart and Target have gotten creative. Wal-Mart added cart elevators to a multilevel format in Baldwin Hills, Calif., and Target temporarily floated into Manhattan on a bull’s-eye-plastered barge last November. The Minneapolis-based retailer also has been pursuing spaces in Manhattan, Boston and Washington, D.C., while Wal-Mart is expected to be aggressive in the Los Angeles market.

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