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.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Continued misrepresentations in press coverage about Wal-mart and DC

Walmart originally announced plans for 5 stores in DC , then added a 6th store in consultation with the DC Government.  Half of the stores--all the stores under construction currently--are to be placed in what we would call "higher income areas" of DC; two of the other stores are in Ward 7.

The first Ward 7 store is to be close to the DC-Maryland border on East Capitol Street; the other store would be at Skyland, a proposed redevelopment of a shopping center on Good Hope Road SE, right on the border of the wards, so that Ward 8 is immediately across the street--personally I think the desire to build this shopping center, while honorable, is a stretch, and will put other existing shopping centers at Congress Heights and the Good Hope Marketplace, at risk, because there isn't enough economic demand to support all three locations.

The site where the "Wal-mart" shopping center on New York Avenue was to be located has already been cleared, and it likely will be many years before anything ever gets built there, leaving a big hole in the streetscape.

The other location was to be at New York and Montana Avenues NE, on the commuting out of the city side of the road.  But two weeks ago it was announced that this project wouldn't be going forward.  While that area is industrial and gnarly looking, it's arguable that it's severely economically distressed.

So only 40%, or two, of the Wal-mart locations in DC are to serve distressed areas, and it is questionable that the Skyland location will ever open.  And for that matter, we don't know when the East Capitol Street NE store will get underway.

Therefore, the statement in this column, "In DC, Wal-Mart job seekers want work. Any work.," by Post writer Petula Dvorak severely mis-states the reality of Wal-mart's entry into the city:

In the District, Wal-Mart isn’t killing off mom-and-pop stores and sweet little groceries. It is going into places that have nothing and have had nothing for decades. And it is providing an anchor for other redevelopment to follow.

The Wal-mart on Georgia Avenue is up the street from two Safeways.  The Wal-mart on H St. NW is close to a Harris-Teeter, a Giant, and two Safeways.  The store that will be on Riggs Road NE is about one-half mile from a Giant Supermarket, albeit just over the border in Maryland (and in fact until the 1990s the store was once located where the Fort Totten mixed use development is being constructed).

Plus, Wal-mart's business model doesn't support their being termed an "anchor," because retail anchors support other retailers.  Wal-mart's business model is to capture as much as 100% of the spending of customers--that doesn't leave any room for spending at nearby businesses.

While the stores likely will be a source of jobs for low-income residents, it will be a hike for most low income residents to get to the store, and serving low income residents, based on the majority of the locations for the stores, shouldn't be touted as a reason to welcome the company into DC.

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At 9:07 AM, Anonymous h st ll said...

What's your email Richard?

At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

one wonders where Petula Dvorak actually lives- considering how suburban -centric the WaPo has become..

At 2:19 PM, Anonymous rg said...

Petula Dvorak once wrote a column in which she appraised the state of the overall economy by talking to a few people at the mall. In other words, her columns are drivel and not worth your time to respond to. Though I'm glad you did respond. I am especially glad you called out her laziness, though you are too polite to use that word. I immediately thought the same thing re: store location. Her lack of basic research (hell, her lack of basic geographic knowledge of the city she covers) is, sadly, par for the course for many Post columnists these days.

At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RG- again you speak words of wisdom- I have read WaPo articles that got Capitol Hill and Anacostia mixed up- and other WaPO articles conflating CH with Brookland. It seems that few of these people have either lived here long or have gotten out of their cars long enough to take a real look at the city. In matters concerning the art world- especially art galleries and openings- they routinely pass over important local happenings here for NYC or LA - oriented garbage. The WaPo is horrible towards local painters and sculptors- espcially those working in traditional styles. cast dogcrap or defecation on canvas gets their attention. quality to them is all "kitsch"..they got the Hausners auction totally wrong- predicting that no one would want any of their paintings when they went to the block. Just a few pictures fetched multi millions..

At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Richard Layman said...

At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Richard Layman said...

p.s. RG, while you're right she doesn't seem to know much about the city, after 25 years, I still find amazing things.

e.g., 1. I went to pick up a zipcar at Jefferson and Georgia, and at 9th? and whatever, I came across a partial block of rusticated stone rowhouses, which are very atypical in DC, especially outside of Capitol Hill (there are some) and Dupont Circle.

2. When I bike, depending on the level of egregiousness (glass etc.) I may pick up bottles and cans off the street and then deposit them in a blue recycle container.

So I was riding down 4th St. back of the Reservoir and picked some stuff up and towards Florida Ave., I couldn't find a container. So I went down an alley (and ironically, at the house just past the alley there was a container) and the interior of the block was full of alley buildings. It was amazing.

There is so much out there to find out about.

At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes- but I do not get any sense of wonder or discovery from these people as I see you have Richard. You have a child's sense of wonder- never give it up.


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