Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Nonstory: Walmart stores haven't opened yet in DC

Washington Examiner cover, 8/2/2012Today's Examiner has a cover headline and breathless story, "DC still waiting on Walmart," about how Walmart, which announced in November 2010 (it's now 21 months later) that they were entering the DC market, hasn't opened any stores yet.

Um, duh. 

There isn't one ready-to-use 100,000 square foot space already existing in DC in the places where they want to locate.  Let alone six such spaces.

Every one of the sites where they have announced stores requires new construction and in one case, land assembly (frankly, a store at Skyland on Good Hope Road SE won't happen for years and years).

What were people expecting?

The apartment building under construction at 300 H Street NE where a Giant Supermarket is locating on the ground floor (pictured in an earlier blog entry) is the culmination of more than 10 years of various proposals, negotiations, financing issues, change from condominiums to apartments, and the quest to find a large supermarket as tenant.

Or in my neighborhood, there are businesses failing on Georgia Avenue because of a loss of business from the closure of the Walter Reed Medical Center.  Residents are expecting that the site will be redeveloped fast, and this will help those businesses.  Um no.  Don't expect much to happen for 5-10 years at a minimum. (Those businesses, unless they retool, are likely to fail in the interim.)

Anyway, none of the sites are owned by Walmart directly; two of the sites are part of mixed use multistory buildings constructed by another company.

The reality is that Walmart never said how fast they were going to open the stores.

The claims about quick entry, lots of jobs, etc., were made by the elected officials and community organizations that were rolled up in support of the company's entry.  (See "The Selling of Walmart" from the Washington City Paper.) 

It takes time for these projects to come to fruition (as a newspaper owned by a company that is a big real estate developer ought to know).  They have to be designed.  They have to get building permits.  They have to be constructed.

No news here.

Although area blogger Dan Malouff is quoted saying Walmart didn't expect things to take as long, that they are less experienced with urban sites.

This is categorically not true. Few retail companies in the U.S. have as sophisticated real estate operations as Walmart Corporation. They capture the learning from every project, and have plenty of consultants and experts on retainer.

Nothing happening in DC now is surprising them. It's not like they don't have stores in cities already such as Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Dallas, etc.

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