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.
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.
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.