Some Lessons Learned From Walmart's Expansion (At Least, Its Move Into Oak Cliff)

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On Tuesday, you no doubt recall, the city sent word that Walmart's opening 14 new locations citywide -- among them, three in the southern sector, including on the vacant lot at Fort Worth Avenue and W. Colorado Boulevard. Yesterday, on Go Oak Cliff, Jason Roberts wrote about the reaction to that announcement, much of which was negative. Roberts explains why via e-mail -- because that intersection was, once, "the original La Reunion site plan developed by Dick Sieb," referred to here. City officials with whom I spoke yesterday and today confirm: Yes, at least part of the land intended for the project, seen in the rendering above, will be used for the Walmart.

In his Go Oak Cliff piece, Roberts flashes back to those early meetings of the Fort Worth Avenue Development Group, which maintains a thick stack of plans and studies for your casual browsing. Writes Roberts, at one 2004 meeting, "strong neighborhood leaders stood up and passionately discussed why we should organize and start asking the city to re-analyze the corridor and help create a more walkable, livable street." And much good was done: Zoning was changed, Better Blocks were built and so forth. But then: Walmart.

"I'm actually not as upset about the Walmart and more upset about the process we undertake as a community to make an area walkable, livable, [insert urbanism buzzword]," Roberts writes Unfair Park via e-mail when asked for his thoughts on the announcement. "The planning process takes years, costs millions, and in the end, we're at the whim of whoever decides to develop on that property. The community says they want a village, but the realities on the ground won't allow that to happen. Either we need to commit quickly to a vision, or we should use our resources in a more productive manner, like enabling local, small business."

Karl Zavitkovsky, head of the city's Office of Economic Development, is aware of the reaction to the announcement -- that there are jeers amongst the cheers of those who believe, like Dave Neumann, that this lays the "foundation for economic growth on Fort Worth Avenue." Zavitkovsky says he expects this particular location to be a neighborhood market, and he asks: "Be patient." Why?

"There will be plenty of opportunity for public discourse, for public discussions, for anything that would require zoning changes or where public funds are being requested," he tells Unfair Park this afternoon. "If I were in the neighborhood, I don't think anything's necessarily cast in stone. The neighborhood will have their opportunity to express their opinions. The right approach is to look at each situation individually and not have a sort of blanket reaction. From the city's standpoint, we are very happy that Dallas is an area in which they've chosen to expand, but we haven't negotiated anything individually with them."

Incidentally, he says the city hasn't offered Walmart any incentives to open these 14 locations, many of which won't be announced till the land's been acquired, and Walmart has not asked for any breaks. Not yet, anyway.

"There have been no specific discussions involving incentives as it relates to any of these properties," he says. "The city has certainly encouraged Walmart to bring new stores into the city and region, and they were ongoing over the last three, four years, so we're very happy they made this announcement, but we haven't had any specific negotiations with them about any specific sites. And each site has its own set of circumstances. So I'd cation people not to jump to conclusions and to just look at the facts as they relate to individual properties."

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