Atlanta, GA. Wal-Mart Dropped From Plan, Neighbors Pleased
Homeowners in southeast Atlanta feel like they dodged a bullet this week. According to media reports, a developer has publicly confirmed that a large Wal-Mart store is not part of the development mix coming to the Grant Park Neighborhood.
Last year, angry residents did battle with Fuqua Development, arguing that its big box plans were incompatible with the city's Master Plan for their historic community. The developer dug in, said they had the permits to proceed, and the case eventually wound up in court, because a member of the city council successfully changed the parcel's zoning. Fuqua sued, which then led the main parties to settle the deal by coming up with a compromise plan. As part of the compromise, Wal-Mart was dumped.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported August 2nd that in place of Wal-Mart, Fuqua has added a Kroger grocery store. Kroger is the second largest grocery chain in America. More importantly for Grant Park neighbors, the so-called Glenwood Project (there is no glen or woods) will be a mixed use site plan, with retail, offices, and residential housing for the elderly.
The developer told the AJC newspaper that they needed an anchor store, but that Wal-Mart was not the only retailer they were talking to. "And from the start as well, there was a widespread, but incorrect public assumption that Wal-Mart would definitely be the anchor for the project."
"I think my community will really like and appreciate this," one city councilor to the AJC. "It just goes to show that if you speak, sometimes people listen."
The President of the Grant Park Neighborhood Association said her group supported a mixed-use development with housing and commercial space---and that the developer was willing to revise his original plan to meet neighbors' needs. "We were able to bring a lot of people together and became educated together. A rapport developed over time and we were able to get some good things done."
What you can do: Neighbors clearly were never able to develop a "rapport" with Wal-Mart, and the giant retailer had no comment for the media on their removal from the project.
If developers of large projects like Glenwood spent a little more time on front end discussions with neighbors, they could have saved themselves a year's worth of battle and legal expense.
Fuqua hopes to start construction this fall---but their Kroger probably would have been open by now if the developer had listened to what neighbors wanted from the outset.
Readers are urged to contact Atlanta City Councilor Carla Smith at: http://www.district1atlanta.com/account/write/40018 with the following message:
"Dear Councilwoman Smith,
Thank you so much for sparing residents of Atlanta's Grant Park from having a Wal-Mart foisted upon them. The scale and location of big box stores in urban neighborhoods are often problematic, and its great that a developer was willing to negotiate--even though the plan ended up in court.
We doubt that Wal-Mart itself would ever listen to neighbors. Even though Sam Walton said, "If some community, for whatever reason, does not want us in there, we're not interested in going in and creating a fuss. I encourage us to walk away from this kind of trouble... Wal-Mart wants to go where it is wanted."
Clearly the Grant Park neighborhood was not one of those places."