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2008-08-11
North Lauderdale, FL. City Begs Wal-Mart For A Supercenter

No city official should ever have to beg for a Wal-Mart. They will come easily enough, without any encouragement. Begging Wal-Mart is like begging for trouble. On May 27, 2008, Sprawl-Busters reported that the city of North Lauderdale, Florida has 20 Wal-Mart stores to pick from within 20 miles of its borders -- including an existing Wal-Mart discount store on West McNab road in North Lauderdale. You could also drive two miles to the superstore in Margate, or 4 miles to the supercenters in Lauderdale Lakes, Coral Springs, or Pompano Beach. North Lauderdale is flooded with Wal-Marts. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported in May that Wal-Mart had decided not to pick the site of a U-Pick farm for another supercenter -- at least for another year. That pretty much sinks plans for the so-called "Town Center" project on 43 acres of land in a new commercial site on the southside of McNab Road. What used to be a working farm, but has remained empty for the past decade, will stay empty for the foreseeable future. The 207,204 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter is on hold. That means plans plans for an 80 room hotel, restaurants and 36,000 s.f. of other retail space is also on hold. City officials and Wal-Mart have been bickering over who the other retailers in the mall should be. The city didn't like the mix of retailers Wal-Mart had in mind, and likewise Wal-Mart told the city that the Morton's Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, Houston's or Ann Taylor stores that the city wanted was not realistic. This week Wal-Mart announced that they're going to "re-evaluate our position." "We're just not looking to do a new store at this point in time," a company spokeswoman said. When the Sun-Sentinel asked if the entire Wal-Mart project was dead, the company responded, "It's all a possibility." The retailer had some unkind words for city officials. "I believe our new Supercenter would have been built and opened to serve the community and residents of North Lauderdale some time ago had it not been for the city's requirement to tie our certificate of occupancy to the completion of the rest of the development," the company complained. The city forced Wal-Mart to build a "Town Center," not just a superstore, and when the retailer hired a leasing firm to find tenants, the city "attempted to dictate" the tenants, according to Wal-Mart. The Arkansas-based corporation at one point reportedly told city officials that "nobody wants to come to North Lauderdale." The city kept asking Wal-Mart what progress was being made in finding tenants, and repeatedly got no information from Wal-Mart. But now, three months later, the city is getting desperate. The Sun-Sentinel reports this week that city officials are down on their hand and knees for their Wal-Mart. They are even willing at this point to travel to Arkansas. The newspaper reports that city officials are sending a letter to Wal-Mart asking for a meeting with the company in Bentonville, Arkansas. At a City Commission meeting last month, Mayor Jack Brady and City Manager Richard Sala both were authorized to attend. The city's insistence that Wal-Mart find different tenants to fill the center has melted away because of project delays and the tough local economy. Now Mayor Brady say the city needs the Town Center built as soon as possible. "If it sounds like we're begging, we are," he told the newspaper. "We need the money. It'll generate tax dollars."

What you can do: If city officials sound like they are addicted to Wal-Mart, that's about right. The City of North Lauderdale was incorporated in 1963. It has roughly 5 square miles of territory, and is located just south of Coral Springs, Florida. North Lauderdale Mayor Jack Brady says he has not given up on Wal-Mart. "We just have to wait," he told the Sun-Sentinel. "I would like to see them build; I'm confident they will build. I think it would be very good for North Lauderdale." The Mayor's city has the motto: "Building a future." But it's not clear what kind of future the city envisions if one of its main growth strategies is attracting more big box stores. The city describes itself as a "compact city in the center of Broward County... The City may be a cozy five square miles, but its current growth spurt is just getting started." Readers are urged to email Mayor Brady at jbrady@nlauderdale.org with the following message: "Mayor Brady, North Lauderdale is swimming in Wal-Marts. Now that Wal-Mart city and Wal-Mart have been unable to agree on the Town Center project, it's an ideal time to revisit your zoning code and put a cap on the size of retail stores. Your city is very compact, and should not be entertaining projects that look like suburban sprawl. If a supercenter opens, the existing Wal-Mart discount store will close. That will leave you with a potentially blighted building on West McNab -- one that may not be easily filled because of its size. Wal-Mart brings no added value economically to North Lauderdale. Most of the sales at a new site would come from its existing discount store, and from existing grocery stores. This is not economic development, and does not mean new jobs and new tax revenues, since most supercenter sales will come from merchants already in your city. You say the city 'needs the money,' but you will not see any windfall from this project, because most of the sales will simply be transferred from the existing Wal-Mart. Instead, pass new limits on store size, to prevent your small city from wasting acres of valuable space. You can 'build a future' without more Wal-Marts. One Wal-Mart in North Lauderdale is one more than enough. You can stop begging Wal-Mart to come, and focus on growing small businesses that will stay and prosper in North Lauderdale because they are not being crowded out by Wal-Mart."










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

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