The Proposed Lowe’s/Walmart in Remington Opinions Roundup

An immense amount of back and forth has been going around over the past few days over the proposed shopping outlet in Remington, primarily over the you-knew-it-was-coming hubbub over the inclusion of Walmart into the mix. This news is considerable and it deserves the level of conversation that it has so far enjoyed; the announcement by developer Rick Walker took many, many people by surprise and this issue deserves a thorough digestion. So here’s about as much information you’ll ever need to read on the matter, posted in chronological order as Baltimore media (and blogs!) have reported them.

2010/02/24 – MD Daily Record – sets the stage for the development details and drops the knowledge that Walmart will be included; 95,000-100,000 sq feet, $65 million, 700-750 jobs created total. Notable detail – the Montreal-based developer in question is well known for essentially airlifting big box stores into “depressed urban areas” – translation: he probably doesn’t know very much about the area he’s trying to develop in aside from its price tag.

Notable comment:

Baltimore Indie I’d much rather see a commercial development in that site that would bring in more businesses; preferably smaller and local. There could be a variety of businesses there that would accomplish the goal of getting retail needs into the community and Baltimore City.

e.g. More businesses, more diversity, happier consumers – and less of a burden to the street-level infrastructure.

2010/02/25 – City Paper -Makes the reveal that the developers in question had been looking for a “quality supermarket” as of January but in the story run the day prior by the Daily Record, they claim Walmart approached them in December. They pretty much knew Walmart would start a shit storm and pretty much sat on the knowledge. By this point, an online petition is already circulating against the presence of Walmart.

Notable comment by a PR guy from Walmart:

Steve Restivo – We look forward to opening a new store in northern Baltimore soon and remained committed to growing our business here. Residents need more affordable grocery options and more convenient access to quality jobs. Our new 25th Street Station store will deliver on both.

These jobs – including positions in store management, pharmacy, human resources, customer service, cashiers and sales associates – offer competitive pay, quality benefits and a real opportunity to build a career. More than three-quarters of our store management team started as hourly associates and benefits include affordable health plans, profit sharing and 401(k) contributions, a stock purchase plan and a discount on store merchandise.

In Baltimore our stores in Port Covington, Arbutus, Dundalk, Glen Burnie, Catonsville and Towson already co-exist with dozens of small, medium and large businesses; just drive around in the vicinity of our stores to see how Walmart fosters opportunity for others. This is not surprising. There have been countless studies done that show Walmart stores are a magnet for growth and development.

We look forward to working with the community over the next several months to create economic opportunity by providing good jobs and by saving customers money on their groceries and other quality merchandise.


Steven Restivo, Director Community Affairs

Walmart Stores, Inc.

ugh. Duly noted that the area Walmarts he cites, notably the locations in Port Covington, Catonsville, Glen Burnie and Arbutus – all of which I have been to – generally only compete with large sized businesses, as most suburban locations do. The Port Covington location, actually, is the only store at all in that immediate area. But this guy’s a shill, what can you do, he doesn’t actually know anything about Remington.

2010/02/25 – Mobtown Shank – Hampden-based blog launches the assault on the idea of Walmart coming to town with a 1500 word list-filled article citing study after study which detail Walmart’s effect on surrounding businesses and communities – almost all of which would most certainly be the exact opposite of one Steve Restivo’s PR copy-pastes.

Notable comment:

ADMIV – I will say here what I said in other blog comments:

Propose a viable alternative. Propose a development with private investment that would generate an equivalent number of jobs, income, and taxes (real estate, commercial, income, etc.).

And oddly enough, this comment has mostly been met with “Well that isn’t our job” by a lot of other comment-makers. I for one refer to the first cited comment and say that instead of 3-4 big box stores, turn it into a (oh crap I’m about to say it) shopping plaza with 10-15 smaller venues, maybe a single big box store. Restaurants, shops, an employment center, on and on – they could and certainly can work in that space, all while accommodating a very comfortable boost to the local economy without choking the surrounding area.

2010/02/26 – Baltimore Sun – Jay Hancock cites the occurrence in Chicago in which a new Walmart was blocked from being developed based on their poor wage scales and other notable hiring practices. He also makes an interesting point – Baltimore and its City Council are very much aligned with labor unions, and labor unions just LOVE Walmart. Fuel to the fire. (Steve Restivo also commented on this article)

2010/02/28 Baltimore Brew (1,2) – In a twofer, Gerard Neily gives a four out of five star rating on the Remington development, based on suggestions he made in December of ’09 which the developer seems to have paid attention to. Interesting to read, as it gives a much clearer mental picture of how the proposed development would “fit” into the area (it still doesn’t do that very well). The second link is a deft summary of things up until now by Fern Shen, most notably the language used by local media in their headlines which seemed to suggest that the Walmart is 100% definitely coming to town, when in fact it is still just a proposal.

Notable comment (by me because I am awesome):

I can’t help but wonder if all of this controversy would be nearly as …controversial if it were a Wegman’s instead of a Walmart, even given the lack of infrastructural support for such a huge amount of traffic it’ll generate. Rather, the traffic it generates if it’s a success at all – the Walmart just three miles south pulls in traffic from Cherry Hill but the Sam’s Club is shuttered – people (at least, the ones with cars) are still quite content to drive the extra 5 or so miles outside of the city to give patronage to their big box store of choice and I’m not entirely convinced this will fare any better.

And that probably won’t change. Fact is, if Lowe’s or Walmart or whatever surprise big box stores they end up building go under, that area is SCREWED with a giant vacant building and no tenant to use it – something that Port Covington knows about all too well, but since no one lives there no one really cares. And if the reverse is true and they succeed at the expense of other smaller area businesses, Remington is equally screwed. If however there are several smaller venues in the same area and a few of them turn over, it’s not nearly as difficult for Remington to deal with. In terms of traffic, in terms of happy residents, in terms of pretty much everything.

18 thoughts on “The Proposed Lowe’s/Walmart in Remington Opinions Roundup

  1. I tend to agree with your assessment of the situation, Evan: Nothing is bad and too big is bad. The problem with the medium to small sized retailers you favor -– at least this was the problem around the Hippodrome when BoA renovated a few blocks –- is that population density is very low in most areas of Baltimore. The logic goes: fewer residents + workers = less foot traffic (and therefore more potential for crime) = less revenue. BoA’s solution was to renovate an entire neighborhood. (By the way, it would be interesting to call the BDC and find out how the project fairs 5-7 years later.)

    Was there any talk of giving the tenant (Walmart, I guess) a tax break over a period of years to sweeten the deal?

    1. No such word on a tax break, but I’m sure that’s something they typically don’t broadcast. Believe me there’s already a lot of preloaded fury over the idea.

  2. I also think it’s totally bizarre that some of the same people that want to have a 25 cent surcharge on plastic bags want a Wal-Mart, champion of all things plastic, coming into town. Will the surcharge be levied on their shoppers?

  3. I know Wal-Mart was the beginning of the end for Hunt Valley Mall (in it’s ‘Mall’ iteration). well, that plus the light rail.

  4. I’m not so sure why people are uppiddy up about walmart. Its just like how a supermarket crushed local neighborhood markets a few generations ago. Before you would have to visit a; butcher for meat, a dairy market for milk and eggs, a baker for bread, different produce sellers for fruit and veggies, fish market for meat that doesn’t have souls (ask Jessus about that), and end of the day, you would be lucky if they were even remotely close together. Walmart/Sam’s Club/Lowes basically is just trying to do that as well. I’m sure people complained and whined about supermarkets going up. But guess what, most people take them for granted these days.

    1. True, but like so many other things grocery habits have become cyclical in the market; more and more people nowadays are coming back to wanting individual vendors that they trust selling them their products on a local, community minded basis and there’s an overwhelming distrust (among the same set) for all things Walmart or corporate in general.

      Not that it matters to the folks buying from Walmart, they just want cheap and convenient goods all in the same place and they don’t really care about such things. I’m not begrudging that sentiment, but I do find it odd that often times these are the same people who get all blue in the face about American jobs and the American economy and they would just as soon support a Walmart in their community which receives 90% of their products from China (not including food …maybe). Like I said before, a bizarre mix of consumer politics.

      1. eh..I’m not so sure I buy your breakdown of the battle lines here.

        Traditionally, lots of people who support big-box store developments like Wal-Mart aren’t the blue(ish)-collar nativist who get “all blue in the face” about American jobs and the American economy (not sure where you were going with the latter example). If anything it’s the other way around, via labor unions and politicians.

        All the smart arguments I read in favor of wal-marts in communities comes from pro free trade, anti-union libertarians and the like.

        Maybe the local dynamics of the remington situation makes it different, but I’d highly doubt that when this particular situation happens all the time in this country.

        And I’ll add that I’m in favor of urban wal-marts put just about anywhere. It’s a shame what consumers (esp poor consumers) have to choose from in many Baltimore neighborhoods.

        Here’s a good piece on wal-marts produce section and how it stacks up to whole-foods:

        1. My major battle lines essentially lie within the fact that the development may not be supportable based on the size of the proposed development vs. the two lane roads that surround the whole thing (on only three sides). The presence of Walmart is fairly secondary to all of that but it’s certainly taking center stage with those who are against it. I guess my major point leads back to what I said about Port Covington – they had two big box stores right next to each other and one went under within a few years. Now there’s a huge empty building sitting there. If the same happens in Remington, it’ll be disastrous. Hopefully it won’t happen regardless of what they put there but I think a far safer choice is going the middle road with a more heterogeneous approach.

          But to better understand some of the other stuff regarding the “blue in the face” comment I’ll refer to baltimoregal’s comment – it should be understood that a lot of the people in Baltimore who one would normally assume to be anti-Walmart – the same folks who are pro-plastic-bag-tax, pro green movement and pro farmer’s market – are now coming out in full support of Walmart in Remington. It’s confusing.

          I just get the feeling it’s as I said on the interwebs yesterday – “anything below 28th St. – PROGRESS!! anything above 28th St. – OUTRAGE!!”

  5. I DON’T WANT A TRADER JOE’S EITHER! There’s an awesome Safeway RIGHT THERE.
    Put a Trader Joe’s in the city? GREAT. How about not where there is already an excellent supermarket. Which makes the point about Wal-Mart’s produce pretty darn moot.

  6. I wouldn’t exactly call that Safeway “awesome” or “excellent” or even “safe,” unless it’s changed a lot in the past few years. When I used to go there, it was one of those dump-zones, where other Safeways unloaded their nearly expired milk and such. I made sure to wear my riot suit and carry an electric cattle prod, just in case anyone came too close.

  7. I agree, Safeway is not the best of stores. I shop now at at least three grocery stores. I don’t know if Walmart would ever be one of them. I am picky. Trader Joe’s would be nice, and I went to that site above and commented that I would love to see them here. I don’t know if it is economically feasible for them.

    Traffic is my biggest concern. Auto vs foot vs big delivery trucks. Remington is a pedestrian neighborhood. Don’t take that away. Remington is an interesting mix of long time and new residents that often work together to clean the streets up, have block parties and work on improving their area. Many of my neighbors would be happy with part time jobs that may be available.

    1. Liz I think that the traffic/infrastructure argument needs to be part of the greater focus, but it seems to be lost on this one point of Walmart. Although, I do think that when folks start showing up to their neighborhood meetings (and I hope that they do) this issue will more than likely gain some traction.

  8. As someone who’s interested in moving to Remington pretty soon, I am ambivalent about this development. I don’t like Walmart and I don’t shop in their stores. I dislike the tone of their press release. But I am not entirely convinced about the counter arguments either.

    1) Traffic
    Any commercial development that employees as many people and generates as much revenue will attract as much traffic. Any grocery store will need restocking. In fact, if there were many different stores using different restocking trucks, the traffic would be higher.

    2) Crime
    I don’t see how giving people jobs (poor paying evil jobs for sure, but better than what they have now) will increase crime.

    3)Urban development
    While I understand and dislike how Walmart will kill off local businesses, I think that any other store would do too. What other medium size businesses would not kill of local stores? Further, the Walmart may increase JHU student interest in the area (not all of them are necessarily rich kids).

    Thus the only real reasons for not wanting Walmart are aesthetic and emotional. I wholeheartedly share them, but unless we find something that’s based on reason. and not on emotion, I am not sure that we have a case.

    Are there any studies on the effects of Walmart in urban areas in terms of house prices, crime and job creation?

  9. And I’m sure whining liberals are going to use this as another excuse to impose more government meddling into private companies and make it harder for companies to compete, employ workers and do business by heaping another pile of stupid regulations upon them.

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