Greater Greater Washington

Will Wal-Mart be urban? Part 1: Brightwood

Ever since Wal-Mart announced earlier this week that they intend to build four stores in the District of Columbia, the question on the mind of urbanists has been: What will they look like?


The Curtis Chevy car barn. Image from Google Street View.

Can Wal-Mart be fit into an urban context? Will we be getting walkable, transit oriented stores like the Columbia Heights Target, or the typical sprawly suburban model with acres of parking out front?

In all four cases the architecture is still in preliminary stages, making it impossible to obtain complete site plans. However, after speaking with the developers working on each of the projects, some information is nonetheless becoming available.

This post will be the first in a multi-part series discussing the urban design of each of the four stores. First up: the location in Brightwood, on the former site of Curtis Chevrolet, on upper Georgia Avenue.

Average suburban Wal-Marts often occupy sites with over 20 acres of land, but the Curtis Chevy property is barely four acres. Clearly, Wal-Mart won't be able to build its usual model at this location.

Dick Knapp of Foulger-Pratt Company, the developer for the Brightwood site, confirms as much, saying "This is not your father's Wal-Mart. They're moving in to tighter spaces and they're going vertical."

The plans would replace the old car dealership buildings with a new 102,000 square-foot Wal-Mart store. The only way to fit that large a store on that small a property is to eliminate surface parking and bring the building right up to the street, so that's what will happen.

It isn't yet clear whether the entire store will be able to fit into a single story or whether a second floor will be necessary, but in any event the parking will be located in an underground garage directly below the store. The entrance will face the sidewalk 20-30 feet back from the curb. That will make for either a comfortably wide sidewalk or a narrow landscaped strip.

When asked about preservation of the existing buildings, Knapp responded that due to a now-canceled redevelopment plan for the property that would have replaced the car dealership with 399 apartments, Foulger-Pratt has already received city approval to demolish all the buildings on the site except the façade of the car barn, a historic structure used by the dealership to store vehicles. Wal-Mart is hoping to obtain permission to take down that façade as well, but such permission has not yet been secured.

Unfortunately, the development won't be mixed-use. If Foulger-Pratt would stick a few floors of apartments above the retail uses, that would add new customers for the surrounding businesses and help revitalize central Brightwood as a place to live, not only to shop. It's regrettable that the plan misses such an opportunity.

The goods news, though, is that Wal-Mart appears dedicated to providing a fundamentally urban store at this location. It will greet the street and it will not have any surface parking out front. These are real victories for the community, and represent a real evolution for Wal-Mart as a corporation.

Important questions do remain. Will the car barn facade be preserved? Will Wal-Mart's frontage along Georgia Avenue be an uninterrupted blank wall, or will the architects take steps to give it pedestrian-scaled details? What sort of effect will Wal-Mart have on Brightwood's independent businesses, and what will be their labor practices?

But from an urban design standpoint, we may be looking at one of the most progressive and walkable Wal-Mart designs in America. That, at least, is good news.

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Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for Arlington County, but his blog posts represent only his own personal views. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives car-free in Washington. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post

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Actually, the real question should be: do we really want Walmart in DC? I don't care if they design a building that wins every progressive award - it's still a predatory retailer famous for it's cut-throat practices that degrade surounding business opportunities and attract low-rent shoppers. I'd rather wait for mixed use or have at least a semblance of upscale retail with a Target (that Target is upscale by comparison is a huge reason why I say no to Walmart).

by Wayan on Nov 21, 2010 3:12 pm • linkreport

@Wayan:
+1

by Matt Johnson on Nov 21, 2010 3:18 pm • linkreport

@ Wayan

Now the question is do the majority of DC residents agree. I see a lot of DC residents at Capitol Plaza everytime I go out there and I would bet that they would love a Walmart inside of DC so that they could purchase everything needed without leaving the city.

The people that visit this and many other blogs about DC and the region are a minority and do not speak for the majority in DC.

Its just a wait and see game. If people dont want Walmart they will leave and close the stores due to no business or not enough business to sustain the store and if people want the store it will be successful.

by kk on Nov 21, 2010 3:40 pm • linkreport

I'm getting a picture in my head of the Container Store/Best Buy in Tenleytown, sans apartments on top. Not getting mixed-use at Georgia and Missouri is definitely a blower, but even without it, this could potentially be a nice building. I feel better about it - not great by any means, but better. I'd like to see them preserve the façade of the car barn, but I can also see Walmart screwing that up and being sloppy with incorporating it into the new store.

To me, there isn't much of a difference between Walmart and Target. The fact that people see Target as "more upscale" than Walmart means they've just done a better job of marketing itself to the affluent yuppie-types who're coming into the city today. Walmart may have been the first to perfect the big-box model and all the unsavory practices that come with it, but Target isn't much further behind, and if you're gonna oppose one you might as well oppose all of them.

by dan reed! on Nov 21, 2010 4:36 pm • linkreport

Dan, thanks very much for getting the new info from Foulger-Pratt.

I agree that it would be good for the new development to be mixed-use, but unfortunately many of my neighbors strongly opposed the residential aspect of Foulger-Pratt's original plans, for reasons beyond my understanding.

I have one more addition to your list of important questions: what will be done to streamline traffic flow at that godawful Georgia/Missouri/Military intersection? Something's gonna have to give.

And, in my heart I agree with Wayan, but in my head I know that Wal-Mart can't be stopped. I'm hoping for the best at this point.

by The Brightwoodian on Nov 21, 2010 5:59 pm • linkreport

Walmart .... aren't those the people who stood us up about redevelopement at the Rhode Island Metro/Brentwood? After K-Mart ran away wasn't Walmart next in line? Their chiefs made a one day site visit and decided that DC wasn't for them. Correct me if I am wrong.

by tour guide on Nov 21, 2010 6:27 pm • linkreport

tour guide,
the unions fought walmart and made brentwood inhospitable.
their was a large lobbying campaign and protests against walmart.

by d on Nov 21, 2010 8:02 pm • linkreport

Before it was used by the automobile dealer the car barn was, of course, home to the Brightwood Line streetcar fleet.  The 70/72/74 line seems to have lasted three days into 1960. 

Useful though big box retail might be as a tool of economic development for the neighbourhood (personally I have my doubts but do not object to it being given a chance), it really is a shame that a back-to-the-future reuse of the structure in its original capacity is not under consideration. 

Failing that, the least they could do is preserve the façade and incorporate it into whatever does get built there. 

As a side note, while refreshing my ever-failing memory on details for this reply, a couple of online resources came in handy:

  • this 1948 map of Capital Transit lines, and
  • historicaerials.com (think of it as Google Maps with a time machine overlay: DC coverage is excellent but it can be one heck of a time sink)

by intermodal commuter on Nov 21, 2010 8:30 pm • linkreport

It would be sad to see the carbarn go, as it is a part of the neighborhood's history. It's too bad they can't find a way to integrate it into the design. I'm not sure a preservation fight is in the best interest - not every building needs to be saved - but still, it's unfortunate.

@Wayan, it's still a predatory retailer famous for it's cut-throat practices that degrade surounding business opportunities and attract low-rent shoppers.
What does that mean, "predatory"? Do you mean competitive?

And what do you mean by cut-throat? Do you mean seeking the lowest cost for labor and merchandise? Isn't that what businesses do?

And what do you mean by "low-rent" shoppers? Do you mean the poor? Where should the poor shop?

What specific things about Wal-Mart do you not like? It is easy to call them names, but let's try to identify actual problems and address though instead of a knee-jerk anti-Walmart reaction.

by David C on Nov 21, 2010 9:05 pm • linkreport

Hating on Wal-Mart is so last century. They are doing some amazing environmental stuff which, given their size, can and will positively impact our country.

by h street landlord on Nov 21, 2010 9:58 pm • linkreport

Lowest cost of labor should mean making cutting of unnecessary expenses, not workers' rights.
Walmart pays their employers very low, rips them off on overtime and vacation days, does not offer any benefits, prohibits unions and besides that, encourages them to suck off the government by "counseling" them to supplement their small income with any single public subsidy available.

I would advise those Walmart fans to do some research on the numerous claims against Walmart and to revise all its lawsuits.

by Mar on Nov 21, 2010 10:07 pm • linkreport

I meant "making cuts" or "cutting off"
Not revise, but "read"

PS Can't post and text at the same time

by Mar on Nov 21, 2010 10:12 pm • linkreport

Oh god Lance, please do not post inaccurate info. Walmart has made no such claim. They seem quite willing to discuss parking lots, despite what I am sure are your strongest efforts to scare them into suburban-style parking.

by funInSun52 on Nov 22, 2010 3:17 am • linkreport

Sadly, you're looking at this question very narrowly. It's not just about "the Walmart" and its particular urban design (two stories and structured parking vs. one story fronted by a sea of parking), there are multiple necessary questions that should be asked:

-- about the site and its development capacity,
-- how the entire site could be developed,
-- the impact of this development on the urban revitalization objectives along the corridor, and
-- what is the transportation demand impact of this kind of use in an area with only bus service.

While I am concerned about this as a "nimby" resident in Manor Park (actually I am resigned to a Walmart but it should be done as part of a much more complete development that strengthens Georgia Avenue), this type of broader analysis is a necessity.

Just because comparing the general walmart store format to this particular proposal and this one is better than their norm, doesn't mean that it does all that much for us as residents of the city, even if it is better for walmart.

by Richard Layman on Nov 22, 2010 6:52 am • linkreport

Dan Reed -- but in paragraph 10 of this post, Foulger Pratt says that they aren't planning a mixed use building. The Tenleytown Sears redevelopment is a perfect example for what needs to be done with this site. And isn't. Making the development almost completely worthless in terms of having multiplicative positive revitalization effects.

by Richard Layman on Nov 22, 2010 6:54 am • linkreport

The car barn preservation debate is what sunk the last development at that site. It dragged on for two + years and by that time financing fell through. It may happen again. There is strong xenophobia in that area, many people there just don't want anyone non-black coming in. Walmart is white owned and imports chinese goods, I doubt there's a more hated demographic combimation possible at that intersection.

by loganlou on Nov 22, 2010 7:24 am • linkreport

I don't think there's any reason to "celebrate" that we won't get a typical suburban store for the simple fact that you can't build one and make any money, and that's the only reason Walmart is comming in to DC. They should at least build a munti story building to keep such a prominent site scaled to the inevitable build-out of that corner. And please make them keep the existing structures. They will undercut every local shop with in waling distance so they ought to be able to give something back too.

by Thayer-D on Nov 22, 2010 7:41 am • linkreport

Thayer, there's few stores in walking distance there. There's a dollar store and a convenience store across the street which will probably suffer I am sure. A thrift shop a few blocks up will probably be okay, and a Family Dollar that will probably be okay as well. Most other stores are a hair care products mega store which should be fine, then liqour / beer stores and a carry outs. If Walmart was going to crush any local competition then I think the Safeway and Family Dollar would have already done so. The area is about as blighted as you can get without total abandonment in my opinion...

by loganlou on Nov 22, 2010 8:25 am • linkreport

I find it really disappointing that people feel "Walmart can't be stopped" or that they are resigned to the fact of a Walmart in their community, and even more disappointed with the notion that any Walmart can be a hallmark of "progressive" urban planning. I think nearly all of us can agree that—at the very least—Walmart should pay decent wages, provide decent benefits, scale down its designs in a manner consistent with a walkable city and not make its profits (or maximize them) by sucking off the public tit (or encouraging its employees to). But how will Walmart be compelled to make these concessions to its bottom line? Certainly not by organizing around "at the very least" demands. For one, it fosters division between those who take a principled stand against Walmart of any size or shape because of their tendency to have severe deleterious effects on conditions for local working people on the one hand, and those who simply want a few concessions to mitigate (or so one hopes) those deleterious effects on the other. Those of us who are preparing to fight on a "No Wal-Mart in DC!" stance may not get what we want, but if enough of us fight from that stance and still fail, we will have failed not primarily because Walmart will have bullied enough people to get what it wants, but because it has made the concessions that more compromising voices have wanted all along. It's a basic principle of negotiation: start with what you really want (and more), not with what you think you're opponent is willing to give.

This is why we have such a virulent right-ward shift in this country's politics: not because there are so few of us with progressive principles, but because so many of us with progressive principles are so lacking in imagination and the will to fight, cowed as we are by mainstream media and coddled by the likes of Jon Stewart.

Point being: not only is it possible to fight Walmart (despite all cynical protestations that to do so is "so last century"), but it is necessary.

by Fhar Miess on Nov 22, 2010 9:01 am • linkreport

I have done some traveling in my time; weather or not you want a walmart is irrelevant, they are coming.... From my experience, Walmart actually does a great job of making their stores fit the community...
Where I come from they are building a Walmart in an old shopping center that no anchor businesses have been in for many years. It is a small suburban shopping center with not much parking. Walmart is adjusting their storefront, inventory, parking, and personnel to match the yuppie suburbanites that will be visiting the store. Not to mention they are even building a store that is half the size of a standard Walmart.

By no means do I care about the company themselves, but I am writing to show that despite their large conglomerate, they do try and meld with the community they are in.

by Brad K on Nov 22, 2010 9:08 am • linkreport

@Richard Layman: curious if you were around back when our neighbors so vehemently opposed F-P's initial concept for mixed-use retail and residential at the site? I myself was not, but from the information I've gathered through conversations with people who were, opposition was strong enough to the residential component to stall the project. I'm wondering if F-P and Wal-Mart would reconsider making the project mixed-use, and if so, would they meet with the same kind of opposition today (now that the neighborhood has had some turnover, however slight).

by The Brightwoodian on Nov 22, 2010 9:27 am • linkreport

I live in Brightwood and have mixed feelings about Walmart coming to town. Mainly I am disappointed because I am concerned about how it will affect the potential of the neighborhood. In someways I would rather an empty site (not withstanding the nice dog facility) until the next development boom in 10+ years. Then the site value could go up with existing streetcars as a selling point. Better site value may lead to a more complete developemnt. My concern is that bad development can prevent good development in the future.

The interesting thing about Brightwood is its position at a crossroads between different socioeconomic neighborhoods. It really could tip either way and is nice place in part because of that mix. Walmart and the existing dollar store (at which my family shops occasionally) set a different tone than Target and Julia's Empanada's. Even though all the surrounding neighborhoods would be served by all the above establishments.

That said, I am glad it will interact with the street better than a large parking lot. However, as Brightwoodian mentions, a residential component would really help. In some ways this may be Brightwood's version of the defunct 14th street Nehamiah Shopping Center.

by LeeinDC on Nov 22, 2010 10:56 am • linkreport

Brightwoodian -- I moved into the neighborhood at best at the tail end of the discussions on the site in question. I know a couple of the ANC commissioners from my other activities over the years, and I am sure I discussed the issue with them.

(The only "volunteer" stuff I do wrt Ward 4 is some stuff with Main Street Takoma and I suppose a wee bit with regard to the Takoma Theatre Project. Given that CM Bowser had drunk the Mayor Fenty koolaid, we don't really see eye to eye I think on how to approach commercial district revitalization in a substantive fashion. And I criticized her legislation on demolition notification, making the point that without there being any remedies upon receiving notice, what difference did it make?)

DC will never be able to serve as a retail destination for suburban residents with a couple exceptions of stuff on the border (Friendship Heights) or for entertainment (Georgetown, Adams Morgan, 18th Street/Dupont Circle, U Street, H Street).

W4 people say they want better retail. But they refuse to acknowledge that "better retail" is dependent on customers, and that customers generally are residents. And that for better retail to exist in DC, there needs to be more DC residents to be able to generate the demand.

And Councilmembers Graham and Bowser just haven't exhibited any leadership with regard to urban design issues on Georgia Ave. with maybe an exception by CM Graham with the Donatelli development at the Petworth Metro, although that is semi-cancelled out by the one story CVS across the street.

This derails amost all discussions about commercial district revitalization in our area (east of 16th Street, say Kennedy Street north). Because people don't accept the link between housing and retail, or between intensification and transit (e.g., what is happening, positively in my opinion, around the Petworth Metro station, up to about Upshur St.), it's almost impossible to get substantive improvement. (Development changes in Fort Totten, which is in both W4 and W5, I know a bit less about.)

I mean to blog about this site wrt your question along with some Brookland stuff (opposition to a PUD development on the Col. Brooks tavern site).

Something I have said for years is that it's necessary for citizens to work and to work with the process, because in matter of right situations, development is going to happen whether or not you want it, and the harder you make it, the greater the likelihood is that the final project is not of your liking.

A company like Walmart works on very long time frames and has scads of money and the capability to pounce once market conditions shift in their favor. That has happened wrt DC, post 2008 real estate crash/bankruptcy of Lehman Bros. and the foreclosure of many real estate projects and the drying up of financing.

I hate to lose historic buildings, but the Brightwood car barn is probably an acceptable loss from a special merit standpoint, in terms of what a good mixed use project can do for boosting the revitalization of the Georgia Avenue corridor in substantive ways.

But by being oppositional, much in the same way that Mary Williams has been over the years in ANC6D means that you get very little, and revitalization opportunities are squandered and positive change barely occurs.

Sure Georgia Avenue sucks, and the ANCs don't have good standing planning and zoning and public space committees (unlike say ANC6A and 6C) to begin making a difference, and they are too wacked for me to want to spend much time working with them to try to improve the discourse. E.g., the W4 and W1 ANCs should organize a citizens revitalization conference and planning initiative for the Ward 4 part of Georgia Avenue.

by Richard Layman on Nov 22, 2010 12:09 pm • linkreport

Fhar Miess -- the whole point about "matter of right" is that there is matter of right for development as long as it meets use standards for the zone.

DC would have to require another level of review for large format stores, say 50,000 s.f. +, to change this.

So because of matter of right, it makes very little difference how you oppose something, and for me at least, it's a waste of time knowing I would lose. It would have been different in a thriving real estate development economy. But even then, in an appropriately urban mixed use development, it'd have been tough to oppose even then.

LeeinDC -- the Nehemiah shopping center is a pretty good comparable example in terms of overall positiveness or negativeness. In the case of Nehemiah, it failed on two dimensions:

1. It was a (a.) strip shopping center, (b.) fronted by parking -- a suburban not an urban format.

2. It was one story, not multiple stories, further exhibiting the suburban nature of the development paradigm, not using the potential upper floors meant the project overall contributed very little to revitalization objectives concerning the corridor.

So the Walmart building in Brightwood uses the site marginally better, by putting parking underground, maybe going to two stories. It's still a single use project. It fails to contribute to other urban revitalization objectives, it doesn't use the development potential beyond two stories, overall it wastes the space.

The site is 4 acres. Compare the impact of this proposal vs. Bethesda Row. The latter project doesn't waste all its development potential, it uses all of it.

This image:

http://www.ifoapplestore.com/db/2008/04/23/maryland-mini-store-to-be-expanded/

shows the original "Bethesda Row" block.

by Richard Layman on Nov 22, 2010 12:20 pm • linkreport

@Fhar Miess: I think nearly all of us can agree that--—at the very least--—Walmart should pay decent wages, provide decent benefits, scale down its designs in a manner consistent with a walkable city and not make its profits (or maximize them) by sucking off the public tit (or encouraging its employees to)."

I don't think even most of us agree with most of those things. My guess is that you spend most of your time in an echo chamber with people who share and reinforce your views, but this isn't a lefty political blog, there are lots of more mainstream opinions here---people who think it's normal for businesses to pay market wages, that providing low-cost goods to neighborhoods not well served by retail is a public benefit in itself, and so on.

by David desJardins on Nov 22, 2010 12:37 pm • linkreport

@David desJardins: "...this isn't a lefty political blog, there are lots of more mainstream opinions here---people who think it's normal for businesses to pay market wages, that providing low-cost goods to neighborhoods not well served by retail is a public benefit in itself, and so on."

So, you don't think that such people should be opposed to a corporation that regularly pays below-market wages and sells goods at such low prices as a deliberate strategy to destroy other low-cost neighborhood retail stores? Are such people unable to discern the difference between the market's invisible hands and Wal-Mart's monopolizing tentacles?

Forgive me for thinking that a blog post which wraps up paying lip service to progressive and walkable urban design might actually be aimed at an audience of people who care more about the public welfare than corporate profits. My bad.

by Fhar Miess on Nov 22, 2010 1:01 pm • linkreport

I'm a Petworth Mom. I don't care what y'all say, I will be delighted to have a WalMart in DC and not have to haul my precious grumpy cargo all the way to Maryland in order to buy reasonably priced snow boots in toddler sizes, swim noodles, a coffee machine (or whatever.) I'll still hit the Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, Marshall's, the small retail stores, the internet, Craig's List, Macy's...whatever gets the job done. And they better have parking.
Here's hoping that the Wal-Mart brings more business to local Brightwood retailers, Brightwood Bistro etc. Now if we can just get a diner...

by Jennifer on Nov 22, 2010 1:08 pm • linkreport

Wal-Mart's corporate citizenship is an interesting discussion, but a separate one from the question of urban design for big box stores.

The urban design question isn't really specifically about Wal-Mart at all - it's a question of accomodating very large store footprints (80,000 sf plus) in urban settings and with beneficial design - but Wal-Mart's desire to enter DC certainly gets the discussion started.

DC USA is a great example - the biggest boxes there are on the upper floors, allowing much smaller stores to occupy the ground level and maintain a regular storefront spacing along 14th Street.

There's far more involved with making a big box urban aside from just burying the parking and pushing the building up against the sidewalk.

Likewise, these discussions should focus on all kinds of big box retail. The overall economics of retail means these chains won't be going away. Likewise, we're going to have to deal with these kinds of spaces once the have moved on. It doesn't really make a difference from a design perspective whether we're talking about a Wal-Mart or a Target or a Home Depot.

by Alex B. on Nov 22, 2010 1:08 pm • linkreport

So, you don't think that such people should be opposed to a corporation that regularly pays below-market wages and sells goods at such low prices as a deliberate strategy to destroy other low-cost neighborhood retail stores?

If people are accepting the wages offered, then, by definition, they aren't below-market wages, they must be (at least) the market wage.

I would like to see more redistribution from rich to poor in our society, from the fortunate to the unfortunate, but castigating corporations for not paying more than the market wage isn't, in my view (or that of most people), a good way to achieve that.

I am so naive that I think that offering to sell people things at low prices is better for them than charging them more. Shrug.

by David desJardins on Nov 22, 2010 1:15 pm • linkreport

I don't think it helps anyone's case to list "low-rent" customers as a reason to oppose Wal-Mart. I also fail to understand why one would want Target but not Wal-Mart. Unless you are approaching this debate from the wrong perspective, which would be the "me" perspective.

I fully understand that there are a lot of people in the District that would benefit greatly from Wal-Mart. Being able to buy cheap goods and groceries is non-trivial. It's a big deal to a lot of families. Would I rather we somehow magically get "better" retailers to come in and match the selection/price offered by Wal-Mart? Of course. Is that even possible? Probably not.

Of course we can debate the corporate ethics of Wal-Mart, but they have been expanding into some areas that are Good, such as organic foods and environmental responsibility. Of course there are labor questions and concerns, but at the end of the day Wal-Mart will employ District residents and offer District residents affordable goods and groceries.

I can't believe anyone would actually make the statement that they'd rather see a lot go vacant for ten years than have Wal-Mart build a store that provides jobs. Are they perfect jobs? No. But they are jobs. In hard times, you often have to dance with the devil.

Make no mistake, if somehow people "stop" Wal-Mart from coming to DC, it's not going to be much skin off Wal-Mart's back. We'll lose out on the jobs, the affordable goods, and the tax revenue. I guess some of us would feel good about some sort of ambiguous moral victory, but at what expense?

All I am saying is that we need to put ourselves in the shoes of the people who could really benefit from Wal-Mart in order to really have any sort of constructive and unifying conversation about this.

by Dave Stroup on Nov 22, 2010 2:31 pm • linkreport

“This is not your father’s Wal-Mart. They’re moving in to tighter spaces and they’re going vertical.”

Leads to...

It isnÂ’t yet clear whether the entire store will be able to fit into a single story or whether a second floor will be necessary..."

??

If they're going vertical according to Foulger-Pratt, my guess is that they'll be needing more than one floor.

by Eric on Nov 22, 2010 2:51 pm • linkreport

@Eric

It's quite clear that the parking will be "vertical" in the sense that it will be underground. It's not clear if the store itself will be vertical (i.e. retail on two floors).

by Alex B. on Nov 22, 2010 2:54 pm • linkreport

Given the number of shoppers visiting Walmart, I think the residential component is an overblown issue. What is the impact of 100 more residents, when you have 5,000 customers per day? Either way, it's not a make or break impact on the property or the community.

Brightwood is not Tenleytown, in terms of density, purchasing power, or condo prices, so it's not likely that the housing could be built without a big DC subsidy. No subsidy, no housing.

by mtp on Nov 22, 2010 3:32 pm • linkreport

I don't really know that Walmart Benefits anyone except politicians who get to say they help bring x number of jobs to the city. Walmart does not care about anything except for making money. Any good aspect of their corporation is only a result of community organizing against them to force a change in their policies.

They will bring jobs. But the jobs will be low paying jobs that do not even provide decent benefits or health care. At least a company like star bucks will give their employees decent and affordable health care. This will eventually impact the District as it must support residents who work at Walmart but still need public assistance to pay for care.

Walmart will become part of the community and will use their status a a "local business" to influence any number of zoning regulations, street scape changes, etc., etc.

Walmart will probably ask DC for money, just like they did in Chicago many years ago, to subsidize it's construction just as many other big box stores in DC have done in the past.

Really, there is a whole list of reasons this is a bad idea and as a member of the Brightwood community I would much rather not have a lying, cheating, stealing, dishonest, multimillionaire in my community. We have enough of those in DC already.

by Brightwood Biker on Nov 22, 2010 3:33 pm • linkreport

Houses in Brightwood, Petworth, and Manor Park sell for between $300,000 and $600,000. Houses on the other side of Georgia Avenue, which can be much larger, sell for more, including Shepherd Park of course. Obviously, houses in Takoma sell for more, say $400,000 to $800,000, but the highest prices are for larger houses.

There would be demand for apartments at the car barn site. Sure it would have taken a while for them to lease up, but it would have been eminently doable, especially if there were a decent retail program on the ground floor.

I don't know what the rates are for the Donatelli apartments at Petworth. Obviously they will be higher as they are immediately above a subway station. And the demand for that location will be higher as a result.

by Richard Layman on Nov 22, 2010 4:03 pm • linkreport

I don't really know that Walmart Benefits anyone except politicians who get to say they help bring x number of jobs to the city. Walmart does not care about anything except for making money. Any good aspect of their corporation is only a result of community organizing against them to force a change in their policies.

Of course Walmart doesn't care about anything. It's a corporation, not a sentient entity. Corporations don't have feelings or emotions.

You must have a pretty negative view of capitalism if you think the only way that anything good can happen in the world is if people ignore the profit motive. Lots of good things happen because someone is motivated by money, to produce something of value to others. If you only go to work because you are paid, does that mean that what you do doesn't have any value to anyone?

by David desJardins on Nov 22, 2010 9:08 pm • linkreport

What is the impact of 100 more residents, when you have 5,000 customers per day?

Residents have a hugely different impact than customers. They live there, so they have a greater stake in the community. They are present at all hours, not just during peak shopping hours. They walk in the neighborhood, not just zooming in and out in cars. And so on.

by David desJardins on Nov 22, 2010 10:16 pm • linkreport

Okay,
As fickle as I've been on this subject, I've decided to dig a little deeper concerning what the Walmart Urban Prototypes would or could look like. I've come across these two examples, but you would have to go to the link:

http://urbanturf.com/articles/blog/first_look_at_a_dc_walmart/2698

http://austinchronicle.com/.../tagID425238/page2/

I hope that the visual help give an idea. I will continue to do more research and will post if I find anything new.

by Charmaine on Nov 23, 2010 2:29 am • linkreport

As a home owner in Brightwood (to the west of the site), I am thrilled for Walmart to arrive. They cannot come soon enough! For anyone arguing about mom and pops, please take a moment to list the quality mom and pops on this strip of Georgia that will be affected... crickets, crickets... that's right, there are none (believe me I've searched). Reading into what Walmart intends on selling at these urban stores, its mostly groceries. And, anyone who has visited the safeway on Piney branch vs. the Safeway in Georgetown knows that we are often given terrible produce (vs. G-town), and empty shelves. Safeway doesn't have to treat us nicely because they dominate the neighborhood market. Walmart comes in, I can rest assured that Safeway will actually start treating us with better quality items because of the new competition.

Georgia Ave is a dead rotting carcass right now filled with blight... we need a positive change and if Walmart wants to make the investment than we shall let them and see who shops there. If you are opposed to its arrival, then don't shop there. It's that simple...

by AJA on Nov 23, 2010 10:41 am • linkreport

I am a Brightwood resident. First, I would never ever set foot in a Walmart under any (normal) circumstance. Despite this, Walmart's presence would be a good thing if it brings jobs to the area. However, I hope the Walmart execs understand the depth of thuggery and violent crime in this area (and wherever else they live). I can't count the number of gunshots I hear, often with no police response at all.

Further, unless Walmart is planning on selling wheel chairs, Popeye's fried chicken, hair salon services, McDonalds food, laundry/drycleaning services, 2nd-hand thriftstore stuff, caskets, terrible coffee, corn tortillas, Salvadoran sweets, reggae music/clothing, crappy Chinese food, liquor, beer or methadone, then local retailers and non-profits have nothing to worry about.

by KennedyStreetRocks on Nov 23, 2010 12:01 pm • linkreport

@Fahr Miess + BrightwoodBiker. I'm with you.
@David desJardins and what exactly is wrong with having a negative view of capitalism?

And I can't believe how naive i feel. i am shocked by all of you who are in support of it coming. in support of the company at all. this is walmart we are talking about people! walmart. if anything this is going lead me out of brightwood.

yes people need jobs. yes retail on georgia avenue sucks. walmart is not the magic solution. and quality independent retail is certainly not going to want to set up shop near a walmart...

i'd love to see a trader joes. for real.

by abra on Nov 23, 2010 2:40 pm • linkreport

and what exactly is wrong with having a negative view of capitalism?

There's nothing wrong with that. You just shouldn't be surprised to find yourself in the minority. You can hold any extreme views that you want. But are you really surprised to learn that most people don't share such extreme views? It is somewhat depressing to me how modern society makes it so easy for people to only interact with people who reinforce what they already think. Call it the "Fox News effect".

by David desJardins on Nov 23, 2010 2:47 pm • linkreport

There's nothing wrong with that. You just shouldn't be surprised to find yourself in the minority. You can hold any extreme views that you want. But are you really surprised to learn that most people don't share such extreme views?

Minority? Well, yes, technically speaking, 37% is indeed a minority, but 52% isn't the most commanding majority:

http://people-press.org/report/610/socialism-capitalism

In any event, being anti-capitalist is hardly "extreme"--never has been and never will be. I think you're confusing the "Fox News effect", which leads people to believe they're living in a much more right-wing country than they are, with the "ditto-head effect", which is what you're describing. As for the ability of people in "modern society" to remain in their parochial delusions, free-market fundamentalists are certainly not immune.

by Fhar Miess on Nov 23, 2010 2:57 pm • linkreport

As for the ability of people in "modern society" to remain in their parochial delusions, free-market fundamentalists are certainly not immune.

Obviously! The fact that abra is astonished to discover that not everyone agrees with him/her that the profit motive could never result in anything good, is the dual of the market fundamentalists who can't understand how anyone could think that a market doesn't always produce optimal outcomes. It's two sides of the same coin, two groups with extreme views who don't even understand that their views are extreme.

(The views that abra expressed here, that the only way a for-profit corporation could ever do any good is if pressured by the community to reduce its profits, go far beyond even the minority of the US population who have a somewhat negative view of capitalism in general.)

by David desJardins on Nov 23, 2010 3:16 pm • linkreport

@David DesJardins,

Capitalism is not what Walmart does, capitalism is where the means of production are owned privately, so the profit will also be mostly private, after PAYING the workers' wages.
Wage is a compensation paid to a worker. Worker wages are to be decent and able to provide a decent lifestyle (covering housing, food, clothing and medical)
Anything different, is not capitalism, it's exploitation (or neoliberalism, you name it)
No Walmart worker receives wages that provide a decent lifestyle, no matter how long hours he works, so Walmart is not what capitalism is about.

by Mar on Nov 25, 2010 8:53 pm • linkreport

Mar, that's ridiculous. Obviously Wal-mart pays wages that the employee agrees to, or else they wouldn't work there. This isn't slavery.

If you feel the wages are too low, then you can always push to raise the minimum wage, but in a sense, you're taking away a worker's right to negotiate their own price for labor.

by David C on Nov 25, 2010 10:02 pm • linkreport

So if I believe that the minimum wage should be raised so people can live decently (housing, food and medical) while working over 40 hours a week I am taking away their rights???
You are the ridiculous one. Walmart is the one that keep American workers to exercise their federally guaranteed right to form unions.

by Mar on Nov 25, 2010 10:13 pm • linkreport

Plus I do not want a big corporation that makes billions in profits as Walmart does, to pay so little to their workers and then supplenmet their ridiculous paychecks by encouraging them to apply for any possible goverment subsidy like health benefits, food stamps, etc...Wal-Mart urges its workers to enroll in public/federally financed health care, such as the Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP). It is all of us taxpayers who are paying the difference for Wal-Mart's low wages.

by mar on Nov 25, 2010 10:20 pm • linkreport

So if I believe that the minimum wage should be raised so people can live decently (housing, food and medical) while working over 40 hours a week I am taking away their rights??? Technically yes. You are taking away their right to work for less. Maybe you don't think that should be their right, but you are taking it away nonetheless. You are saying you know what is best for them, not them.

And Wal-mart is not alone in encouraging it's employees to take advantage of government subsidies. Add to that list fast food restaurants, most other retail stores, the post office and even the military. Many military families are on food stamps. So if you want to kick out every employer who doesn't pay a living wage, I hope you have a big moving truck.

by David C on Nov 25, 2010 10:41 pm • linkreport

@David C:
I think that's quite a bit of a stretch.

That's almost like saying you oppose bike lanes because it takes away the ability of the cyclist to ride on a street without bike lanes.

So what, if it takes away the ability of the person to work for less?

It creates a new floor for wages. And while that might force some industries to move elsewhere, generally I think ensuring that workers are able to work and make a wage that keeps them out of poverty is good not only for them, but for society as a whole.

by Matt Johnson on Nov 25, 2010 10:47 pm • linkreport

It's not a stretch, it's a fact. (and the bike lanes analogy fails because the presence of bike lanes does not prevent using the road). It may very well be that workers need the government to negotiate a floor, but it is nonetheless price fixing. And in general we don't fix prices.

There is a price to be paid for a minimum wage, and that is higher unemployment (or else what is the point?) If you believe that a minimum wage is needed then you must think that some people will agree to work for less than that without it. It's possible that without a minimum wage the same number of people will be employed, but some at a lower wage. Personally I don't think that is true. If there were no minimum wage, you'd have more total people employed, but at a lower average wage. Whether that is good or not is kind of complicated. But certainly price stickiness is part of the reason unemployment is so high right now.

The argument minimum wage supporters have to make is a difficult one. Not only do they have to argue that a minimum is good because the increase in average wage more than compensates for the increase in unemployment, but that the minimum wage chosen is the right one. Why not higher? Why not lower?

But that a minimum wage reduces the rights of employers and employees to negotiate the price for labor is kind of beyond debate. That is the point is it not?

by David C on Nov 25, 2010 11:05 pm • linkreport

I think you don't understand how this country works:
First, I have every right as a worker and a citizen to campaign for a raise on the minimum wage.
Second, laissez-faire does not exist in labor relations, workers and employers can not "freely" negotiate their salaries, salaries are subject to labor laws and legislation, an employer is forbidden to pay under the the minimum wage, and I have all the rights (human and divine) to ask for the legally established minimum wage to be raised.
Second, there is not "many military families" on food stamps as you state here, "food stamps" or the United States Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are based mostly on income; military salaries cover the basic means for decent living (housing, food, clothes,medical) military salaries include besides basic pay,housing allowance, food allowance, uniform allowance and free medical. So at least you have a very, very large family, you should not rely on food stamps.
As a matter of fact, a military spokewoman stated: "That some military members continue to qualify for food stamps is primarily a result of the Department of Agriculture excluding the value of government-provided housing as income in determining eligibility for the food stamp program. The study indicated that the majority of military food stamp recipients lived on base,The fact that some enlisted members and even a few officers received food stamps was more a result of larger household sizes and living in government quarters than an indicator of inadequate military compensation"
But unlike Walmart, the military have NEVER encourages its people to use food stamps, they actually have many programs/counseling available for money management.
Ain't gettin' no truck, but I will do every possible thing (within my rights and the law) for Walmart not to get here.
I will used my paid vacations to camp out on the site if necessary

by Mar on Nov 25, 2010 11:24 pm • linkreport

@Mar: Worker wages are to be decent and able to provide a decent lifestyle (covering housing, food, clothing and medical)

I'm for a higher minimum wage. But I think it's nonserious to suggest that you're just going to convince all employers to pay their employees higher than the market wage, just for the good of society. That's not how capitalism works. You might as well propose that we do away with the income tax and just ask everyone to contribute to the federal budget out of the good of their hearts. Won't work.

by David desJardins on Nov 25, 2010 11:48 pm • linkreport

@David
Your economic theories are a little bit outdated.
Hayek and his followers are so "passé"...

by mar on Nov 25, 2010 11:50 pm • linkreport

Mar, I never disagreed with your first point or your first second point. Most workers and employers can negotiate their pay, but not below the minimum wage. But that is a matter of law which could be changed. I would disagree that making at least $7.25 an hour is a human right (it isn't listed here). Before I disagree that it is a divine right, I would need to know which divinity we're talking about here.

There are 2100 families on food stamps. Maybe that is not many to you. It is to me.

And even if we remove the military from the conversation, it isn't like Walmart is alone in having it's employees on CHIP. According to Walmart watch (an anti-walmart website). While 46 percent of their employeesÂ’ children are either on state CHIP plans or are uninsured, that number is 29% for other large retailers and 32 percent for all retailers. So Walmart is worse than other retailers, but it doesn't seem like anyone's hands are clean. So should we not allow any retailers to operate if any of their employees use CHIP?

Which brings us to my point. You could raise the minimum wage to a working wage ($10? $15?) and in the process you'd increase unemployment while decreasing the number of working poor (you'd have those who work, and those who are poor, but no overlap). This would drive some people who were making some wage and getting some help from the government into a situation where they had to rely entirely on the government. Or you could lower the minimum wage and increase the safety net for the working poor (or even subsidize low wages) through free health insurance, more food stamps etc.. while raising taxes on companies that rely heavily on minimum wage employees. This would decrease the number of unemployed poor, but might require more subsidy for the working poor. I fail to see how the former is necessarily better than the latter (nor vice-versa). But I have a natural bias against price fixing (same reason I oppose laws making payday loans illegal).

Furthermore, I fail to see how Walmart, behaving perfectly within the law, is bad. Are you not actually allowed to pay people the minimum wage? Why are you picking on only Walmart? Should we not drive out Target as well? And McDonalds?

by David C on Nov 26, 2010 12:03 am • linkreport

I think David that you are mixing capitalism (which I truly believe is the best possible option) with neoliberalism.
Capitalism means that the privately-owned means of production result in private profits. Everybody benefits: enterprisers and workers, since workers are paid a salary able to cover the minimums.
Neoliberalism, which I thinks is what you mean, is no control. No labor laws, no minimum wage, no control, no intervention. Corporations do as they please, everything is ruled by the market.
We will change from "USA, home of the free" to "home where only corporations are free!"
Capitalism means everybody benefits from free-enterprise, neoliberalism means corporations make the rules.

by Mar on Nov 26, 2010 12:06 am • linkreport

Mar, I said what I mean. What you have tried to hoist upon me is not what I said. I did not call for no labor laws (or even no minimum wage). I did call for capitalism.

If employees don't benefit from the wages they are paid, then why would they go to work?

by David C on Nov 26, 2010 12:11 am • linkreport

I also don't understand how anyone can be against workers receiving any and all government benefits they are eligible for. A big part of the problem with social benefit programs is making sure that everyone who is eligible, receives them. Why on earth wouldn't we want Walmart, or anyone else, to make sure that as many people receive benefits as are entitled to them? I just don't get it.

by David desJardins on Nov 26, 2010 12:40 am • linkreport

@Mar: Hayek and his followers

Wow. You remind me of one of those New Yorker cartoons where everything west of the Hudson is the "far west". I guess from where you sit everyone who isn't in the left 1% of the population is the "far right". I'm for higher taxes on wealthy people like me. I'm for a higher minimum wage. I'm for more power for organized labor. I'm for a stronger social safety net.

But I think it's nuts is to try to achieve social goals by cajoling Walmart to pay more than the market wage, or to be outraged when for-profit corporations seek to increase their profits. Should we also try to get them to pay their suppliers more than the market price for their goods? It's just a fools errand to seek to achieve social goals by persuading corporations to work against their own profit motive. What is feasible, on the other hand, is to construct the social rules that they operate under in a way that achieves better outcomes.

by David desJardins on Nov 26, 2010 12:40 am • linkreport

@David of the gardens
You are free to guess from where I sit.
I am not going to get into personal details or respond to words such as "ridiculous"(as I did earlier) or "fool", but let me tell you something: I was educated overseas and I did sacrificed my grades in college defending capitalism and the American system, to real "leftist" (read: real)professors, for you to associate me with the left.

by Mar on Nov 26, 2010 1:16 am • linkreport

The only thing more pathetic than right wingers who get all their stuff from Fox News are whiny left-wingers who get all their stuff from MSNBC and DailyKos.

I like how lost in this discussion from one affluent white blogger to another affluent white blogger is whether or not Wal-Mart will help poor blacks by offering them more goods at lower prices.

I'm sure if you polled blacks in DC, there would be overwhelming support for the store. Fortunately, we have affluent white people to tell them the store is bad for them somehow.

Because, according to Mar, etc. no wage is far better than minimum wage.

by MPC on Nov 26, 2010 1:38 am • linkreport

Yeahhh
Walmart really cared about giving those (and I quote) "poor blacks" goods at lower prices and jobs...
Yeahhh Walmart really cared about the inner city blacks and their needs, Walmart cared so much about them, that even though Walmart had all the means and money to build a store and provide security, safety and competitive prices they just did not do it. They waited until now. When DC is revitalized.
But how about before? Did Walmart care about offering those "goods at lower price" and jobs to those "poor blacks"?

by Mar on Nov 26, 2010 1:52 am • linkreport

Did Walmart care about offering those "goods at lower price" and jobs to those "poor blacks"?

No. Walmart doesn't care about anything. Walmart is a corporation. Corporations don't have emotions or feelings. It's like asking whether a brick cares about the wall it's holding up.

Corporations are artificial social constructs, that respond to incentives, according to institutional processes. Feelings don't come into it.

I don't really understand your previous response, all I know is that Friedrich Hayek and I are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. He wanted unfettered capitalism, I want extensive social policies that align the interests of profit-seeking entities with the public interest. We are as far apart as we could be when it comes to social policy.

by David desJardins on Nov 26, 2010 2:40 am • linkreport

The car barn could accommodate a normal large-size grocery store, but maybe not a Walmart. The facade fronting Georgia Ave. is not historic. It also is ugly. The rest of the building is historic, as you can tell by reading the historic marker in front of the McDonalds. Despite being 100 years old, it also appears to be in good shape. About 10 years ago, they tore down a smaller brick building that appeared even older.

It would be a real shame if someone with a little imagination could not figure out how to reuse the historic car barn.

by Steve on Nov 26, 2010 10:43 am • linkreport

Steve, I agree, I'd think there would be some way to save the car barn. Something like what was done with the O Street Market. Perhaps an architect can weigh in?

by David C on Nov 26, 2010 8:21 pm • linkreport

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