Housing Complex

Wal-Mart News, Fast and Furious

It seems like the whole world has turned upside down in 24 hours, as Wal-Mart–which for years circled D.C., kicking the tires of various locations–announced four stores all at once and set up a web site offering helpful tips for how you can "lend your voice of support to the Wal-Mart community." And this isn't the end of it. While hammering out plans for its initial foursome, it's still actively pursuing others, and spokesman Steve Restivo says it's too early to say what the company's upper limit might be.

A few months ago, I asked the question: Is it possible for Wal-Mart to fit into D.C.'s urban context? The signs, so far, are mixed. To correct something of a misperception, while Wal-Mart has been piloting its smaller "Marketplace" stores, that's not the thrust of its development in D.C. at the moment. Each of the planned stores is between 80,000 and 120,000 square feet, which is fairly typical for the company.

And how the stores ultimately look will, in large part, be up to the developers at each respective site. The one on New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road NE is being built by Rick Walker of WV Urban Development, who is also bringing Wal-Mart to Baltimore's 25th Street Station, which will include 70 units of housing. Foulger-Pratt, which had previously planned to build on the Curtis Chevrolet site on upper Georgia Avenue, will still be handling that project. The Business Journal reports that the 801 New Jersey Avenue site is owned by the District but controlled by the Bennett Group, which will incur penalties if it doesn't have a development plan by January. The fourth site, at the Capitol Gateway project, already has quite a bit of housing. The developers will make decisions like whether to build acres of surface parking or spaces in garages or underground.

One relatively progressive element: None of the stores, Restivo says, will sell guns. (But will they sell porn?)

To bolster its case for entering the D.C. market, Wal-Mart commissioned a survey of 800 D.C. residents from Democratic pollster Ron Lester. Predictably, it shows strong support for the retailer, especially in wards 7 and 8, and especially among black residents (all of the questions are broken out along racial lines). Here's a chart of one question, asking people to rank their preference of stores:

It doesn't exactly conflict with the poll that Wal-Mart's greatest nemesis, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, put out a few months ago. That one just emphasized that even people who're okay with Wal-Mart want to see it pay fair wages and hire local.

  • columbiadistrictof

    Can't wait to hear what Georgetown Law, Gonzaga High School, and AIPAC (251 H Street NW) have to say when they hear a Walmart is opening across the street!

  • columbiadistrictof

    Also can't wait to hear how the Department of Transporation intends to handle the traffic nightmare. Perhaps they will route the northbound 3rd Street Tunnel traffic directly into Walmart's parking garage?

  • Andrew

    Can you explain how to interpret the poll numbers in the chart? Are they percentages of the 800 respondents?

  • Griffin

    I second Andrew's request. Even if the "All" column lists preferred stores by percentage, the total only adds up to 57%. What percentage of people surveyed didn't answer this question? Was there another option for the question, and if so what was it? What was the whole question and what were all the options?

  • dcer

    i'm amazed by the racial disparity on everything but Giant.
    why don't black people like trader joe's?
    why don't white people like costco?

  • http://westnorth.com Payton

    Third on Andrew's request. Percentages would make sense; some of the line items make sense if the "All" sample was half black and half white (i.e., Mall-Wart, Wegman's, Food Hole, and Giant). The other three, though, aren't anywhere near the average of the black & white respondents.

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