Manchester, NH After A Six Year Battle, Wal-Mart To Open Super-Fluous Store
“The more the better, I guess.”
That’s the kind of mindless land use mentality that explains why communities across America let Wal-Mart build super-fluous stores in saturated retail areas.
“The more the better” explains why Wal-Mart was approved by the Manchester, New Hampshire Planning Board six years ago to build a superstore 1 mile away from the existing Wal-Mart in Manchester. The existing store will now be torn down to make way for asphalt lot full of cars known as CarMax. The new store will be 180,000 s.f., the old store was 107,000 s.f. The only difference is a full-line grocery store.
In March of 2009, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart was going to “open one, shut one,” in Manchester: “In addition to the Wal-Mart discount store on Keller Street in Manchester, there are 3 other Wal-Mart stores within 10 miles of Manchester, including Bedford, Hookset and Derry.” The retailer sent a letter to neighbors in 2009 saying: "The relocated store would follow the model of our new and improved stores, featuring wider aisles and more merchandise, including a full-service grocery store,"
Six years ago Sprawl-Busters wrote: “For a company that likes to talk about sustainability, Wal-Mart has adopted the most wasteful growth strategy in the history of retailing, shutting down stores that can be less than 10 years old, just to build a larger one across the street or down the road.” And we warned Manchester officials: “This superstore does not add value economically to your city, because its sales will largely come from sales at other merchants. These 'transferred' sales do not represent economic growth. The hardest hit will be the existing Wal-Mart on Keller Street, which will close. All the change from a discount store to a grocery store in Manchester means is that Wal-Mart will gain more food market share, and a couple of other grocers will close. This is not economic development -- it's economic displacement."
This project was opposed by Ward 9 Alderman Barbara Shaw, who joined Manchester residents to protest the store's location. Shaw said that the project would generate heavy traffic congestion, and lower the value of some area homes. “It doesn't matter how many (new) signals you have,” Shaw told the Manchester Union-Leader. “There's only certain ways to get there and traffic is going to be debilitating for the neighborhood.”
Manchester officials required Wal-Mart to make $5 million in road improvements as part of the project. The retailer also agreed to give $81,000 to the South Manchester Trail System, which is supposed to make local officials feel better about the project. Hannaford’s Supermarkets, which began as a New England chain store, but was bought out by the Belgium-based Delhaize Group, one of the world's largest food retailers, which in turn was gobbled up in June of 2015 by Stop & Shop, which is owned by Royal Ahold, a Dutch conglomerate, took the Manchester planning board to court, and delayed the project for several years.
It looks like there’s going to be an ugly good fight in Manchester, as Price Rite opened their grocery store half a year ago, and the German retailer Aldi, with a much smaller footprint, will open a Manchester store in 2016.
What you can do: Readers are urged to contact Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas by going to http://www.manchesternh.gov/Contact-Us and leaving this message:
Dear Mayor Gatsas,
Your own residents made it loud and clear that they did not want or need a bigger Wal-Mart. The 107,000 s.f. store, which is twice the size of a football field, was more than enough. But “the more the better” mentality in Manchester has led to more and more chain store sprawl in your community, more traffic, and more crime. This is how you use the character of your city, one big box project at a time. You already had a ready supply of cheap Chinese products. This new store will not create more jobs in the end---it will just displace existing jobs.
Your city’s slogan is “New Hampshire’s Business Capital.” Add to that, “New Hampshire’s Sprawl Capital.” Remember: It’s not how big you grown---it’s how you grow big.