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2010-07-03
Houston, TX. Wal-Mart Goes For Seventh Superstore in Houston

Houston, Texas has at least 15 stores within the city's limits, including six supercenters. But since they love to do it up big in Texas, who will notice yet another superstore in Houston, time in the Houston Heights area? But this particular neighborhood could become a problem for Wal-Mart.

Houston Heights describes itself as a "diverse small-town community in the heart of Houston where neighbors and businesses thrive, children learn and play, and history lives." For the past 37 years, the community has had a Houston Heights Association, a nonprofit organization formed to encourage and promote the enhancement of the Houston Heights community. This group is going to have its hands full unless it plans to sit on the sidelines during the upcoming Wal-Mart battle.

According to the Houston Chronicle. Wal-Mart wants to build just outside of the Heights, in what the newspaper calls the retailers; "most urban location" in the Houston area. The urban move comes days after Wal-Mart was finally approved by the Chicago City Council to build a second store in Chicago. Wal-Mart has indicated this year that it will focus its resources on breaking into urban areas like this one in Houston.

"We are always looking for opportunities to serve our customers in Houston," a company spokesman told the Chronicle. Wal-Mart's site plan shows a 152,015 s,f store, but the company would not reveal more about its plans.

Part of the site Wal-Mart wants was once an industrial plant. According to the Chronicle, the regional grocery chain H-E-B had made an offer for the site -- but they were outbid by Wal-Mart.

The next move is up to the residents of The Heights. If they want to protect their "small town community," they're going to have mount a big campaign to keep the superstore out.

What you can do: One area blogger in Houston on Culture Maps warned Wal-Mart that they are walking into a fight.

"Well listen here, Wal-Mart," wrote blogger Caroline Gallay, "you should heed the advice of Vizzini in The Princess Bride: 'Never fight a land war in Asia.' It would be a classic blunder.

"I know I'm not alone in my disdain for a company with a history of treating its workers horrendously, a cloying smiley-face mascot and products that aren't often anything to be proud of. Next to BP, Wal-Mart may be the most hated company in America."

Gallay says she's lived in the Heights her entire life -- except for a sabatical for college -- "and in a neighborhood that values its independent coffee joints, unique boutiques and restaurants; fights hard for preservation; and has residents that sport bumper stickers like 'Friends don't let friends go to Starbucks,' I can tell you that Wal-Mart's corporate icon isn't going to get a friendly welcome."

"I'd bet money that no one who lives [in the Heights] will make themselves a patron. Even if convenience did persuade us to abandon our principles, we've got a massive Target just over I-10 on Shearn Street, and my family has always driven to the Costco on Richmond Avenue for the groceries Target lacks (when we want to buy in bulk). Most days we just head over to Houston's largest Kroger on 11th Street and Shepherd.

The way I see it, Gallay concluded, "Wal-Mart's not offering a community that wouldn't be caught dead there anything they don't already have."

Readers are urged to email Houston Mayor Annise Parker at mayor@cityofhouston.net with the following message:

"Dear Mayor Parker, Can you see how incompatible a Wal-Mart supercenter is with the character and land uses in The Heights?

Houston already has half a dozen Wal-Mart superstores. It's not like its difficult to get cheap Chinese products from Houston-area Wal-Marts. Large single story superstores do not make sense in an urban area. The suburban stores that Wal-Mart has built are bad enough -- but bringing them into an urban market is even worse.

All this proposed superstore will do is cannibalize its own superstores already in Houston, and not really create new jobs or revenue for the city. One study by the consultant Retail Forward indicated that for every one Wal-Mart superstore that is built, two area grocery stores will fail.

Houston is already saturated with superstores. This latest Wal-Mart proposal should be denied for being incompatible with the surrounding land uses."










 
 
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