Monday, November 13, 2006

It's Wal-Mart, Stupid

I just got back from my first Wooten Neighborhood Association meeting. Last week's announcement about a Wal-Mart Supercenter going into Northcross Mall ensured a healthy turnout.

Approximately 85 percent of those who spoke had negative things to say about Wal-Mart. The familiar litany of complaints included increased traffic, higher crime, adverse environmental impact, decreased property values, damage to existing local businesses and Wal-Mart's legendary history of abhorrent labor practices. Those who spoke positively about Wal-Mart were older residents who want a close-in place to shop. I too would like to see a nearby place to buy groceries. I would also like to see Northcross resurrected from dead mall syndrome, but I don't trust Wal-Mart.

The truth of the matter is that most people don't want Wal-Mart in Northcross because it's Wal-Mart. If H-E-B was coming in (I think they've made a major strategic blunder by not going into Northcross), the for/against percentage in adjacent neighborhoods would be dramatically reversed. All you need to know about Wal-Mart's community relations can be surmised by the way they kept the lid on this project until the site plan had already been approved by the city.

Although Austin is considering a "big box" ordinance that would require public hearings, expanded notice, and conditional use permits for projects larger than 100,000 square feet in a single-occupancy building, the Northcross Wal-Mart will almost certainly be grandfathered in. Someone at the city wanted this site plan issued before the big box ordinance was considered and that pisses me off even more than Wal-Mart's sneakiness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're right. If they put in some "Super" HEB instead of a Wal-Mart, it would be received much better. I think HEB would be a better compliment to the surrounding businesses than Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart would just chew through the businesses in that area.