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2003-10-18
Denver, CO. A Wal-Mart Supercenter Inside Denver's Fortune Cookie?

Is there a Wal-Mart supercenter inside Denver, Colorado's fortune cookie? Many local residents hope not. On June 17, 2002, Newsflash presented the story of Wal-Mart's "Asian War" in Denver. One of city's most unique shopping areas, the Alameda Square district, a collection of 25 local businesses, including Vietnames restaurants, a jewelry store, the United Vietnamese -American Council, an Asian supermarket, bakery -- were all slated to fall before Wal-Mart bulldozers if the retailer had its way. We reported at the time that the owners of King's Land chinese restaurant had gathered more than 800 signatures in opposition to the Wal-Mart land war against the merchants of Alameda Square. To spice up the deal, Wal-Mart asked Denver taxpayers to put on the menu $12 million in welfare payments to Wal-Mart in the form of tax breaks to pay the company back for its construction costs. The city also threatened local property owners with eminent domain if they refused to reach an agreement with developers. But last year, Wal-Mart announced it was pulling out of the project. That withdrawal, however, was only temporary. Although the former Mayor had problems with Wal-Mart's plan, current Mayor John Hickenlooper has turned the Asian market district into so much shredded pork. According to our local contacts, the Denver Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, has a group called The Front Range Economic Strategy Center (FRESC) that has taken an interest in Wal-Mart's push to takeover Alameda Square in west Denver. "FRESC has a project they call The Campaign for Responsible Develop-ment (CRD) that is dealing with the Wal-Mart/Alameda Square issue, as well as other real-estate development projects here," our sources report. "CRD held a well-attended press conference/protest rally at Alameda Sq. on Wed. 8 Oct. that featured the director of FRESC, two representatives of the Asian business owners, a University of Colorado professor/politician, and the President of the Denver Area Labor Federation." The CRD says that Khanh Vu, the last of the owners holding out against a sellout to Wal-Mart, has signed a letter of intent to sell to Wal-Mart. "We met with Khanh Vu and a group of the business owners last year, just before Wal-Mart announced it was pulling out of its push for Alameda Square. He struck me as a sincere, articulate and business-savvy man dedicated to preserving the Asian community group against the threat of being scattered. I think he's just been worn down by Wal-Mart and Denver Urban Renewal Authority agents here, and wants to go back to having a life of his own. Finally, it looks as though the business-owner tenants will have to stand on their leases against Wal-Mart, DURA, the Mayor's Economic Council, the Alameda Square owners, AND the Athmar Park Neighborhood Association (who voted 9-0 for the Wal-Mart deal -- documented on a letter written for them by DURA. It looks as though only a vote by the Denver City Council granting DURA power of eminent domain stands between the tenants and eviction. And City Council is being heavily lobbied by a professional group of influence peddlars here called CRL" Former Denver City Councilor Susan Barnes-Gelt has complained that the condemnation threat and tax subidy are not resulting in substantial public benefit. "Their use should translate to long term, quality revitalization, good jobs with good pay, synergy for neighboring businesses and increased city revenue." She wrote in The Denver Post: "Are 400 low-paying jobs, cheap goods and a grocery story worth evicting 20 shop owners, undermining local businesses, and absorbing the hidden costs of public health and social services? And 12 or 15 years from now, what will be do with a big vacant box in the middle of a parking lot."

What you can do: In an October 18, 2003 article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Barnes-Gelt is quoted as saying the "shop owners will get screwed" if the eminent domain plan chases them out of their stores. I am also quoted as saying: "There's no reason taxpayers should subsidize the world's largest corporation. They don't need a public handout." Corporate welfare has become the chop sticks that help companies like Wal-Mart clean their bowl. For more stories on this topic, search this database by "eminent domain" and "corporate welfare."










 
 
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