After being empty for nearly two years, the former Walmart Neighborhood Market on Lowest Greenville is finally being replaced. Rather than being excited about the excising of a longtime neighborhood eyesore, however, Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston and nearly 1,000 supporters have signed a petition to tell the proposed occupant, a Sam's Club concept store, to scram.
"I have experience with the operations of Walmart," Kingston says. "I know that they're a bad neighbor. They caused a lot of problems when they were operating the Neighborhood Market. They were very slow to respond to problems that they created. I know that Walmart has no idea how to make money in an urban market."
Walmart, for its part, says it's excited "about this cool new club for such a cool neighborhood," according to a blog post last week by Jamie Iannone, CEO of samsclub.com. The post acknowledged Walmart's history at Greenville and Belmont avenues but said that the new Sam's will be benefit the Lowest Greenville community.
"We know this site has been a subject of conversation over the years, and we are committed to being a good neighbor," Iannone wrote. "We’ve begun discussing the location with the Lower Greenville Neighborhood Association, and we believe this will be a great use for this facility in this exciting part of town. We expect to create 30-40 jobs with good benefits at this location and to be an active member of the community."
Representatives from the Lower Greenville Neighborhood Association did not return calls and emails from the Observer on Friday, but Kingston says that he started the petition in part because the association didn't discuss its talks with Walmart with other neighborhood groups.
"There needed to be a whole lot more light and a lot more voices in this thing," Kingston says.
The new 32,000-square-foot Sam's, according to Walmart representatives, will focus on grocery store items and prepared foods, in addition to offering pickup and delivery services. Anyone shopping at the store, which will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., will need a Sam's Club membership.
Complaints from those signing Kingston's petition vary, but many center on the fact that a big-box store doesn't fit with the vibe of the neighborhood.
"I’ve just moved to the neighborhood," Kimberly Boyce wrote. "I don’t want a smaller version of a poor quality big box store installed here. This physically unattractive high volume concept is not appropriate for the limited parking and street lanes."
Others said the empty building should be opened to local vendors.
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"I’d love to see this become a space that is leased out to multiple local vendors and homegrown Dallas food spots. With such a large space in a bustling neighborhood, we should look to other cities who have repurposed large, older buildings into community spaces centered on local business," Zach Light-Wells said.
That's unlikely to happen, however, as Walmart owns the lease on the building until 2032. Kingston says that ideally, Walmart would be willing to sublet the building to a business more consistent with the rest of the neighborhood. If the company insists on opening the Sam's, he says, he anticipates the building will be empty again in 18 months.
"Do you see some 20-something apartment dweller getting a Sam's Club membership?," Kingston says. "Isn't that the same as an AARP card?"