Denver, CO. Wal-Mart Pulls Out of Neighborhood Market Plan
Residents in Denver, Colorado are celebrating what one neighbor called a real victory for the E. 9th Ave and Colorado Boulevard neighborhood. A proposed Wal-Mart on the site of the old University of Colorado Hospital campus stirred up neighbors, and led to the saturation of red NO WAL-MART lawnsigns. After a short life, the Wal-Mart project is now dead.
The developer proposed building a mixed use of retail and residences, but the plan would have added as estimated 14,000 new cars to Colorado Boulevard. "Wal-Mart is not the correct concept for this piece of property," one resident told Channel 9 news last month. "We want an amenity. We don't want a convenience. We're talking about a company with no corporate ethics; a company that's predatory; and a company that puts other companies out of business."
Wal-Mart tried to pawn off the project as an 'upscale urban Wal-Mart" but the neighbors were not buying it. "I hope they sell a lot of lipstick because the pig's going to need it," a neighbor was quoted as saying.
To make the project happen, Wal-Mart was seeking an estimated $15 to $30 million public welfare deal in the form of Tax Incremental Financing (TIF). This allows tax dollars to be invested in site infrastructure that normally would be paid for by the developer, but under a TIF is subsidized by public tax dollars.
At a September public hearing, opponents turned out in force to protest the large volume of new car trips through their neighborhood.
When the issue came up for a hearing earlier this month, Wal-Mart defused the building antagonism towards their project with a surprise announcement. The Mayor of Denver, Michael Hancock, announced that Wal-Mart had pulled its plans off the table.
In a statement released to the media, Wal-Mart said: "While Wal-Mart will not be part of the planned redevelopment of the former University of Colorado Health Sciences campus, we will continue to evaluate other opportunities to serve Denver area customers and expand access to affordable groceries. We are proud to operate dozens of stores in the metro area, including several in the City and County of Denver."
"Our reputation as a good employer and valued retailer," the company continued, "is supported by the fact that everyday thousands of local residents choose to work at Wal-Mart and every week hundreds of thousands of customers shop our Denver area stores. We appreciate their vote of confidence and remain committed to working with the City and County of Denver and local communities to help create jobs, spur business development, and help residents save money."
But Wal-Mart couldn't save it own project. The developer claimed that Wal-Mart had been given an unfair bad rap. "Wal-Mart worked diligently to enhance this premier project, exceeding the requirements of the design plan and creating an exciting neighborhood concept store. While we would have preferred to continue with Wal-Mart as one of our lead retailers, we are moving full speed ahead with restructuring our retail and financing plans to move the development forward."
But Councilor Jeanne Robb told Fox News 3 that she did not like the Wal-Mart plan. "I was always worried after I heard the proposal for Wal-Mart because I had a pretty good sense that this was an arranged marriage that wasn't going to work... Now we're looking for a better match."
One neighbor against Wal-Mart told Fox News, "We're excited. I think it's good news and I think a lot of people are against it so it's good that they heard the people... .We are proud of the role played by concerned neighbors in communicating to City Council representatives that Wal-Mart was not the right way to go at 9th and Colorado. It is a real victory for 'the little guy.'"
What you can do: Readers are urged to email Denver Mayor Michael Hancock at firstname.lastname@example.org with the following message:
"Dear Mayor Hancock,
Denver is saturated with nearby Wal-Marts.
Your city has 14 Wal-Marts within 10 miles, including 10 supercenters, 3 Neighborhood Markets, and 1 discount store. You don't need a 15th Wal-Mart, and adding more of these big box stores will only take away existing jobs at local merchants, and put more market share in the hands of the largest retailer in America.
The project at E 9th was not appropriate for the neighborhood, and it certainly was not deserving of TIF money. Wal-Mart and its developer have enough money to pull off this project without a government bail out. Allowing Wal-Mart to get a huge tax subsidy robs residents of money for their schools, and public works projects. Let Wal-Mart carry its own weight financially.
You should have been out in front of this project -- but you can help with the next big box that comes along, by giving the local district where the box project is proposed the right to vote on the development up or down. Then you'll see what democracy in action really looks like from a mile high."