WASHINGTON -- First, it was just four Walmarts. Now, the nation's capital will be getting six D.C. outposts of the world's largest retailer. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company has announced two new proposed store locations at redeveloped retail centers at Skyland in Southeast D.C. and Fort Totten Square in Northeast D.C.
While Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has routinely run into problems expanding into urban markets, it has not met the same kinds of resistance in the nation's capital where the D.C. government has largely welcomed Walmart with open arms, hoping the stores will generate jobs. Labor activists, suspicious of Walmart's impact on small businesses, are pushing for a community benefits agreement.
Mackenzie Baris, the lead organizer with DC Jobs With Justice, tells The Washington Post: "The mayor had really given the impression that there would be a community benefits agreement before the four initial stores moved forward. And now there are additional stores ... I don't know how the communities around the existing store sites wouldn't feel betrayed."
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D) have both pushed hard for a Walmart location at Skyland, a shopping center off Alabama Avenue near the boundary of Wards 7 and 8, areas of the city that are underserved by grocery stores and other retail outlets. Another Ward 7 Walmart is planned for 58th Street NE and East Capitol Street.
Many of the Walmart locations proposed for D.C. are not the typical big-box format typically found in small-town, suburban and exurban areas. As Washington City Paper's Lydia DePillis notes, the previously planned Walmart for New Jersey Avenue NW in Ward 6 fits well in its urban context with "[d]ecent architecture, apartments on the upper floors [and] smaller stores fronting the street."
DePillis continues, noting that the two newly proposed stores "are more in that vein."
Skyland is a cohesive master plan with 468 housing units, allowing new residents will walk to get their groceries. Same with Hickock Cole-designed Fort Totten Square, which will have some 300 apartments and sit blocks from a metro station.
As the Post reports, Walmart is also expanding in the Maryland suburbs, with locations planned for Oxon Hill, Aspen Hill and Rockville.