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2000-07-07
Bardstown, KY. Empty Wal-Mart Eyesores

Q: How long does a Wal-Mart last? A: In Bardstown, Kentucky, the answer is nine years. Wal-Mart is trying to move into its 3rd store in 19 years, and local folks are getting dizzy watching the portable company do its thing. Wal-Mart opened its first store in Bardstown, a community of 8,500 people, back in 1981, according to an article in the July 5th issue of The Courier-Journal. In 1991 they shut down store number 1 and moved to a 65,930 s.f. store number 2. Now Wal-Mart wants to open a 204,000 s.f supercenter in store number 3 a few miles away from store number 2. "It'll be vacant for a long time," complained one resident about store number 2. "It'll be an eyesore." Kentuckians near Bardstown have some history to talk about. An empty Wal-Mart stood vacant for 3 years in Elizabethtown, for nearly that long in Crestwood Place, and 2 years in Murray, the Courier-Journal reports. A fourth Wal-Mart in Somerset was recently closed down. The first Wal-Mart in Bardstown, which was allowed to build right across the street from a state park (My Old Kentucky Home) and a major tourist draw, was empty 10 years -- just about as long as it was open. The building was eventually bought by the County using taxpayers dollars, after residents complained of its run-down appearance. Now the County plans to demolish the store that Wal-Mart built -- also at taxpayer's expense, and build a county courthouse on the land. In Elizabethtown, where Wal-Mart abandoned a mall location, the mall has fallen into disrepair. "Wal-Mart kinda drove a lot of people out," one merchant said. "It does hurt." The owner of the mall told the newspaper that Wal-Mart has let their building deteriorate. "They don't keep it up. That's my problem with them," said Flora Mattingly. She has a lease with Wal-Mart for eight more years. A Wal-Mart spokesman said the company sold or leased to others about 10 million square feet of vacant stores in 1999. That means they had more than 10 million square feet that did NOT sell, because the company was carrying at least 20 million s.f. of vacant stores last year, adding more dead stores all the time to keep the empty square footage up around 20 million. Wal-Mart said it takes time for them to find new tenants for their vacated space. "It's not something that happens overnight," Wal-Mart said. In Crestwood, where the Wal-Mart sat empty for almost 3 years, the property manager for the dead store said: "They became the largest employer in town, probably in the county, and now they're gone. It just whipped through this community."

What you can do: The County Planning Board last week rejected a Wal-Mart proposal to rezone land from agricultural to business, and the Bardstown City Council will have the final say on the proposal later this summer. So far, Wal-Mart has failed to come up with a compelling reason for building a third store in Bardstown. In what has become almost a word-for-word script that Wal-Mart uses when asking for bigger stores, the company's District Manager said: "We don't have the wide aisles." This argument doesn't impress local residents who think Wal-Mart aisles don't justify abandoning the "old" store, especially when the state of Kentucky recently spent millions to make the roadways leading to the existing Wal-Mart wider. But this is typical of Wal-Mart's "love em, lease em, and leave em" track record, or what you might call Wal-Mart's "aisles wide shut" approach to development.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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