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2005-09-10
Lawrenceville, GA. Plenty of Empty Wal-Marts For Evacuees

If we could get FEMA and Wal-Mart on the same page, there are more than 350 empty Wal-Marts that could be used to house evacuees from hurricane Katrina. The media has reported this week that several empty Wal-Marts are being recycled now as shelters. In Lawrenceville, Georgia, for example, the Red Cross has turned a vacant Wal-Mart into a Joint Resource Recovery Center. The 135,000 s.f. Wal-Mart is part of a vast amount of "dark store" space created when Wal-Mart moves its wares to ever-larger supercenters. The former Wal-Mart in Lawrenceville is part of the estimated 26 million square feet of dead stores that the giant retailer has left behind. In the case of Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County officials recently agreed to buy the empty Wal-Mart to turn it into a document storage center, a health clinic, and offices for the environmental health and elections departments. "We happened to have a large, empty building that we can make available temporarily, and the board agreed to postpone meeting our own space needs in order to help these people," a county official told the Gwinnett Daily Post. The used Wal-Mart is likely to be deployed this way for two to four months, the county said. It must be providence that Wal-Mart had the foresight to leave so many empty buildings lying around -- buildings that often sit on the landscape for years before anything happens to them. According to a Sprawl-Busters survey, one-third of the buildings now controlled by Wal-Mart Realty have been on the market for at least three years. About one-third of these buildings are over 100,000 s.f., and a number of them are less than 10 years old. Why not put them to good use -- Wal-Mart never did?

What you can do: The retailer left these stores behind, many to become eyesores, many taken off the property tax roles, like the one planned for Gwinnett County. In fact, why doesn't Wal-Mart give all its empty stores away -- or even better, tear them down and return their land parcels to their pre-development state, so that real houses for low-income families could be built where vacated Wal-Mart stores once stood? There is no other retailer in the history of America that has left so many stores behind. It takes a disaster to reuse them. Finally, a good use for a wasteful castoff.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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