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2008-02-19
Waukesha, WI. Mayor Says Wal-Martís Not Dead, Just In Flux

Waukesha, Wisconsin has always been a town that takes good care of its big box stores. On April 13, 2000, Sprawl-Busters reported that federal and state taxpayers were going to help shoppers in Waukesha travel to and from Wal-Mart. This generous offer of corporate welfare to Wal-Mart was expected to amount to as much as $211,191. According to the Waukesha Metro Transit Director, stores like Wal-Mart had been asking for what amounts to a taxpayer's subsidy to help them get shoppers and workers to their distant locations. "Fast food restaurants, Wal-Mart -- they've all at one time or another called and said 'Please provide more bus service." said the Transit official. (The WMT transit company happens to be the Wall St. trading symbol for Wal-Mart, but the connection is purely coincidental). The tax-supported bus route goes by the Wal-Mart, which is located outside of the commercial center along Route 164. But now that bus route will have to be changed -- or else go by a dead store. For months, Waukesha officials have been planning for a new Wal-Mart supercenter near Highway 59. But rumors have been circulating in the press that the supercenter project may be dead -- another victim of Wal-Mart's cutback in superstore growth plans. About six months ago, Wal-Mart announced that it was proposing a new supercenter to open in the summer of 2009, and their existing discount store near Highway 164 would close. Wal-Mart would not confirm the rumor that their supercenter project was now glue, but would only say that the retailer was still negotiating with Heartland Development Group of Milwaukee. Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson tried to prepare his constituents for the worst. "I wouldn't say the project is dead," the Mayor told Greater Milwaukee Today. "I would say it's in flux." The Mayor said he hope to know more within a couple of weeks. "I'm still hopeful it can be worked out."

What you can do: Neighbors of the 32-acre Cretex Cement Plant yard on the south side of the city were not too pleased when they learned of Wal-Mart's plans. Unlike Mayor Nelson, they are hoping Wal-Mart's proposal doesn't work out. The city's Plan Commission rejected the first version of the store as being "too plain," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. But Wal-Mart quickly threw a Tuxedo on Frankenstein's monster, submitting what the newspaper referred to as a "dressed up version" of the 180,000-s.f. store -- complete with limestone columns, pilasters and an area for public art. Unfortunately, the retailer has no way to "dress up" the traffic along the two-lane access road, or "dress up" the crime that will accompany this superstore, or the negative impact on surrounding residential properties. Limestone columns won't cure any flooding problems that come with the runoff from the vast expanse of impervious parking lot. Mayor Nelson is just thrilled that a 24-hour Wal-Mart near a residential zone is only a few miles from another proposed big box mall that includes a Target and a Lowe's. Wal-Mart refused to comment on the status of the Waukesha store, but opponents are hoping that this project will suffer the same fate as several dozen other superstores across the country that have been scrapped over the past several months. Readers are urged to email Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson at mayor@ci.waukesha.wi.us with this message: "Mayor Nelson, you said in your State of the City speech last April that your city was working with Waukesha County on Smart Growth. How can you be promoting a Wal-Mart supercenter and boasting of smart growth in the same community? You're proud of Waukesha as one of the best small cities in the country, yet you imitate the kind of suburban sprawl that robs local communities of their character and sense of place. You should take advantage of the uncertainty of the Heartland/Wal-Mart project to put in place a cap on the size of new retail buildings. Do you really want to be searching for a new occupant for the Wal-Mart store on Route 164? This is not very smart growth, in fact, its growth that brings no added value to your city. Talk to your local merchants. They will tell you privately the truth: that Wal-Mart is a money exporter, and kills local businesses. For Waukesha, one Wal-Mart is one more than enough."











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

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