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Walmart Coming to Historic West End Village

Some residents speculate on chances for superstore to thrive in financially-strapped neighborhood

Raised voices and surprised looks from Vine City residents and business owners followed the announcement Monday that Walmart, the world's largest retailer, plans to open a store in the historic Atlanta neighborhood.

The new 80,000 square-foot discount store, part of Walmart's initiative to experiment with smaller format stores, will include a money center and pharmacy.

"We need it," said Tom Leung, of Eggroll Corner, who recalls previous talks of revamping the area with a nationally- named store. "We have been waiting for it for 10 years." 

Walmart expects to break ground at the center, 825 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., in the first half of 2011, expanding on the 28,000-square-foot site once occupied by Publix. It will bring about 150 jobs and hopefully help fill the vacancies in the nearby condominiums and newly built townhomes.

The Walmart will more than fill the void created by the departure of the Publix in 2009 from the Historic Westside Village, supporters said.

"At a time when this community needed help, at a time when we needed strong partnership, Walmart stepped up," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said.

More than 50 council members, school and public officials stood in sub-freezing weather to cheer the announcement. Among them were members of the Atlanta Development Authority, which owns about 30 acres of the land, and H. Jerome Russell, who pursued Walmart for nearly a year. Russell New Urban Development, a division of H. J. Russell and Co., bought the retail center when Publix and several smaller retailers were still open.

Still, some are concerned the discount retailer will leave as did Publix, which pulled out after little more than seven years- citing lower-than expected sales.

Atlanta native Tim Washington is one of them.

"I think people will definitely go there to shop, and it will be good for the neighborhood and for students," said Washington, 24, a Morehouse College senior. But I don't think this is a good neighborhood to put a Walmart in."

Washington said he was concerned about the big chain's ability to make a profit and avoid becoming a target for crime.

" It will take a lot of security to make sure it's safe," Washington said. It will take a lot, he added, for  Walmart to know "....that they are going to make money and not lose money and a good manager that could enforce the quality of service that Walmart is known for."  

Alton Drew December 14, 2010 at 02:32 PM
In general, this is a good news for Atlanta. The multipier effect from an additional 150 jobs will hopefully manifest in increased consumption in the Vine City area. Additional traffic coming into the area will spillover to surrounding businesses. Crime is always an issue no matter what neighborhood. It will be in the best political interest of Mayor Reed and the City Council to ensure that law enforcement resources are made available. With unemployment hovering close to ten percent in the city, Atlanta cannot afford to blow this investment. Alton E. Drew www.altondrew.com
Al Cross December 14, 2010 at 03:04 PM
Study after study show that Wal-Mart devastates communities bringing with it low wage jobs forcing its employees to rely on Medicaid services that end up costing the city/state. Overall tax losses expected from already established small business failures near Wal-Mart would be greater than the tax revenue generated by the new Wal-Mart. And they drive wages down within the communities they are in. Wal-Mart workers earn 31 percent less than the average for workers at large retail companies and require 39 percent more in public assistance. The average Wal-Mart employee requires $2,100 per year in public assistance, including Section 8 housing vouchers, reduced-cost lunches for dependent children, health care programs, and tax credits for the working poor. Bad move Mayor Reed, bad move...
Al Cross December 14, 2010 at 03:09 PM
The opening of a Wal-Mart on the West Side of Chicago in 2006 led to the closure of about one-quarter of the businesses within a four-mile radius, according to this study by researchers at Loyola University. They tracked 306 businesses, checking their status before Wal-Mart opened and one and two years after it opened. More than half were also surveyed by phone about employees, work hours, and wages. By the second year, 82 of the businesses had closed. Businesses within close proximity of Wal-Mart had a 40 percent chance of closing. The probability of going out of business fell 6 percent with each mile away from Wal-Mart. These closures eliminated the equivalent of 300 full-time jobs, about as many Wal-Mart added to the area. Sales tax and employment data provided by the state of Illinois for Wal-Mart's zip code and surrounding zip codes confirmed that overall sales and employment in the neighborhood did not increase, but actually dipped from the trend line. Although Wal-Mart claims its urban stores recapture dollars leaking to the suburbs, the findings of this study suggest that urban Wal-Mart stores primarily displace sales from other city stores. "There is no evidence that Wal-Mart sparked any significant net growth in economic activity or employment in the area," the researchers conclude.
Alton Drew December 14, 2010 at 03:31 PM
I'm sure that Mayor Reed will welcome any of the fine establishments and corporate headquarters that decide to relocate to the southwest end of the city. I tend to find these arguments as a disguised strike against people in the lower economic strata. At times these strikes are misses. My mother worked at Wal-Mart for over a decade. She owns property and is a landlord so one should be careful with the broad strokes. To your specific arguments, I will preface them by saying that in America, the big dog hunts. This notion that a small business should not go under because it is faced by competition from a larger competitior is disingenuous. Wal-Mart, Staples, etc., all started out as mom and pops. It's just that these going concerns did better homework and marketed aggressively. Wal-Mart does not drive wages down. The labor supply portion of the market does that to itself. Low wages are the result of a structural deficiency in labor brought on by our failure to prepare for the sectors that have the higher paying jobs. In short, we sat on our laurels too long and got caught with skills that are no longer relevant to a changing market. As we bid our wages down, Wal-Mart was there to offer jobs at those bid down wages. Unfortunately, our cost of living was increasing while our wages and disposable incomes remained flat. This is not the fault of Wal-Mart or any other retailer.
TaNisha Dean December 15, 2010 at 03:54 PM
I'm super excited for this! I hate I have to drive to Riverdale or Union City or Lithia Springs or Howell Mill to go to my favorite store! =)
Tyrone Cooley December 16, 2010 at 08:30 PM
Wal-Mart has destroyed every community it has set up in!! Wake Up!!! these corporate giants are not good for small business especially in blighted neighborhoods! Wal-Mart gets subsidies from local government to set up there infrastructure, sewers,power ETC! What does the city of Atlanta do for the small businesman? Nothing. Wal-Mart is the Devil!!! What price do you pay for those cheap goods? Do your homework?
Kwanza Fisher December 20, 2010 at 06:25 AM
I think you have to weigh the pros and cons instead of just listing them. In the long-run will the cost to society (this part of Atlanta) be less than the benefits? As long as there is a Walmart, there will always be a demand for labor that small businesses just will not be able to sustain. Then there is greater puchasing power amongst the residents. Savings (and a job at Walmart) could mean doing a better job at making ends meet for families, making it easier to focus on other things like education, etc, not to mention a possible decrease in the crime rate. Then looking at the small businessperson, we have to ask just how many small business will be shut out? Many of the businesses in the area are niche markets (Braiding shops, Caribbean food, Afro-centric goods, etc) in which Walmart has no participation. While Walmart is sure to take business away from some of the general goods stores, perhaps it will not greatly affect the soul and identity of the area. A few shops may have to close, but that just affects the business owners themselves (some of whom do not even live in the area) and whomever they employ (could be less or as many as the # of people that will be employed by the Walmart).
Kwanza Fisher December 20, 2010 at 06:34 AM
You ask what the City does for the small businessperson, but you first have to ask what it will do for the number one priority--and that is the well-being of the collective group, not some subset. The people and community come first. Businesses that understand this (those that are responsive to communities and give back to individuals in communities) are the ones that survive. Furthermore, I encourage community leaders to make Walmart responsible to the people that live in the area. (scholarships, sponsorship of community events, etc). Maybe I'm being overly idealistic and naive, but perhaps they can somehow assist business owners that have been disadvantaged. There is a way to make this work. While it is easy to bash corporations, they are the ones that have the most pressure and responsibility (not to mention resources) to give back to the community. In short, I am of the opinion that Walmart is good for the area.
Kwanza Fisher December 20, 2010 at 06:36 AM
ps. kwanza fisher, not mr. hall ;)
Queen J April 05, 2011 at 10:56 PM
watch a docu-film about Wal-Mart called "High Cost for Low Prices"
James cotrill May 01, 2011 at 03:13 AM
Im interested in knowing where your "working poor" statistics come from. Ive been with the company for 17 yrs and have yet to meet a "working poor" person. In a time where employment is few and far between and crime is on the rise, what statistics do you use to calculate Atlanta Youth's decline in BASIC education and poor exposure to a variety of character building activities. Shame on you Mr. Cross. These conditions are whats forcing the youth to have "hip-hop star dreams" and Marijuana education. Use this opportunity to bring a school to the area with a formidable educational program equivalent to those in cities like Duluth and Lawrenceville. Cities that have 2 or Walmarts each. The fact is smaller businesses are less apt to offer employment to these statistics you speak of. Investigate it yourself. And they sure dont give as much to the comunities as larger corporate entities do.
James cotrill May 01, 2011 at 03:15 AM
You are on the right path Kwanza
James cotrill May 01, 2011 at 03:29 AM
Mr cross im also a former Chicago resident. Do you know how many people applied for the positions at the location you speak of (Evergreen Park). Does research show the areas decline consistently over the previous 10 years. Could that have been blamed on Carson Pirie Scott or Montgomery Wards. Maybe the closimg of the movie theatre. Drury Lane. Shaws furniture? Crime was and still on the upswing in this area for at least a decade. That comes with the modern day surburban migration you all call gentrification. Downtown chicago is looking lovely though. Oh and so is the south loop. Loyolas research is biased. In addition, what are the controls in this research?Wha
James cotrill May 01, 2011 at 03:39 AM
Mr cross im also a former Chicago resident. Do you know how many people applied for the positions at the location you speak of (Evergreen Park). Does research show the areas decline consistently over the previous 10 years. Could that have been blamed on Carson Pirie Scott or Montgomery Wards. Maybe the closimg of the movie theatre. Drury Lane. Shaws furniture? Crime was and still on the upswing in this area for at least a decade. That comes with the modern day surburban migration you all call gentrification. Downtown chicago is looking lovely though. Oh and so is the south loop. Loyolas research is biased. In addition, what are the controls in this research?What are the political implications in this study? What was the Daley (Mayor) factor in this study? You know, studies show that Rio Brazil has a violent crime rate 40% higher than that in Chicago. Somehow the pulled off the Olympics. If cities were as interested in building up all their communities through education, their paths would be considerably better. Its always confusing to see bad economic times turn welcome mat to reduced police time. Low fire response. Lower education. And bad sanitation through furlows. Where are you in these politically motivated cuts

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