Green Bay, WI. Wal-Mart Sounds Bitter After Superstore Defeat Downtown
On March 10, 2014, Sprawl-Busters reported that the Green Bay, Wisconsin City Council had voted unanimously to classify a site Wal-Mart wanted for a superstore for "downtown use." This designation limits the size, and the kinds of buildings that can be built on the site.
The Council vote was a sign of support for the work of the city's Plan Commission, which voted in late January to recommend a 'mixed use' project for the city's downtown. The Commission wanted to preserve the unique historic downtown district and the denser development. The Mayor of Green Bay, Jim Schmitt, has been a consistent supporter of the $23 million Convention Center, and a consistent opponent of the Wal-Mart suburban style superstore.
In the end, Wal-Mart couldn't muster a single vote for its superstore, but we indicated last March that there was "no doubt the company will come back for a second time with a slightly smaller footprint."
That's exactly what it did. But this week, the giant retailer lost again in Green Bay.
On July 16th, anti-Wal-Mart activist Lisa Anderson of the Green Bay group B Local, wrote to Sprawl-Busters:
"Just wanted you to know that we won!! There will be no Wal-Mart big box store in the heart of our downtown. They do have the option to purchase until Aug 25th, but we're pretty sure they will not come back with a neighborhood market as we've asked several times for them to go smaller. But until that date comes and go, we'll still be on guard."
WBAY/ABC News in Green Bay reported that the City Council voted 6-5, after more than 5 hours of debate, to deny Wal-Mart's proposal to build a supercenter on the Larsen Green site in the downtown Broadway District. The vote means the Larsen Green remains classified as "downtown" use, which sets guidelines that a 150,000 s.f. Wal-Mart superstore does not meet. Wal-Mart did add a residential component to its superstore to make it appear 'mixed use.' But its hard to disguise a big box store.
One Councilman told ABC his constituents wanted something with "a different footprint and development density."
What you can do: Wal-Mart usually has little to say when they lose such votes, but a spokeswoman for the company sounded decidedly bitter about the outcome:
"We're disappointed in the decision. It's a community that's missing out."
The retailer even invoked the federal government to try to save face over its defeat: "The City and the USDA have documented a need for affordable groceries and general merchandise in downtown Green Bay. Last night's vote didn't change that and didn't do anything to address the need."
In a standard script they use in all defeats, Wal-Mart left its options open: "We are committed to our Green Bay customers and will continue to look for opportunities to serve them."
Readers are urged to email the Mayor of Green Bay at firstname.lastname@example.org with the following message:
"Dear Mayor Schmitt,
Congratulations on winning the city's 7 months battle with Wal-Mart! A superstore made no sense in your downtown, and your leadership, combined with the resourceful energy of B Local, has sent a message once again to Wal-Mart that one size does not fit all.
Now you will see a more appropriately scaled and design project that your downtown business and residents deserve.
Green Bay can do better than Wal-Mart."