Atascadero, CA. After Aa 10 Year Fight, Wal-Mart Crashes and Burns
Since 2006, Sprawl-Busters has written 16 articles about Wal-Mart’s protracted effort to build a store in Atascadero, California. That all came to crashing end when Wal-Mart announced on February 10, 2017, that it will not build the Atascadero store that had been planned for 10 years.
Wal-Mart told the Tribune News that it has scrubbed plans to build a store in Atascadero. The newspaper called this “a surprise move that unravels a decade of planning and debate.”
Wal-Mart blamed “a changing market and the increased demand for online shopping” as the reasons behind its decision. “A lot of factors” went into the decision,” a company spokesperson said, including the company’s shift toward online retail with the purchase of Jet, an online website.
“The reality is that we’re continuing to innovate our business as well as improve our existing stores in the region,” the retailer added. “While brick-and-mortar stores remain an important way in which we serve our customers, we’ve also committed to building our capacity for e-commerce.”
The store would have been 129,500 square feet. Last summer, city officials created a “commercial facilities district” to allow Atascadero to levy a special tax on the store to pay for building costs.
A citizens group called Save Atasacadero fought hard against Wal-Mart for the past decade, and took the project to court. Tom Comar, who co-founded Save Atascadero, told The Tribune News, “I’m very appreciative of all the Atascadero residents that saw that the Atascadero Wal-Mart was just not suitable for our small town. We’ve made Atascadero great again.”
Comar noted that the city will save millions of dollars in traffic costs, including the construction of a roundabout.
Wal-Mart says it will sell the property after it works with the city to “identity other suitable uses.”
What you can do: While Mayor Tom O’Malley told the media he was “disappointed” that the project collapsed after 10 years of work, he seemed ready to move on. “This would’ve been devastating news if it would hit in the middle of the recession. There wouldn’t be a lot of options. The fact is, where we are right now is a very positive time. We have multiple fronts doing well.”
But the Mayor was clearly caught off guard: “We were continually reassured that they’re moving forward, and I think they honestly were.”
The group Save Atascadero will be celebrating for weeks to come, and activists across the nation are watching as Wal-Mart pivots from reliance on large superstores, which are now a form of retail dinosaurs, to investing heavily in virtual shopping offerings.