Friday Editorial: Ward 5 Wal-Mart

Well, aren’t we proud in Ward 5. We got the first submittal of Wal-Mart’s planned 5 stores within the District. Not only that, they decided to propose a layout that is not fitting for an urban environment and basically is their suburban model. Now, I am not against Wal-Mart in general…but I do have concerns about this proposal as it is. This proposal is basically a huge parking lot based on their suburban model (after the horrendous development of the Giant/Home Depot at Brentwood’s layout, you would think that it is not good planning to create this type of development). This type of layout also promotes more cars on our streets (imagine more cars on New York Ave and Bladensburg?).

Now, I understand that creating any development on this property will need to be auto-centric since there isn’t a metro around but a 126,000sqft Wal-Mart Supercenter (let’s not be fooled, this big of a store IS a Supercenter) will draw on a huge radius for its customers, not the local neighborhood or community…and I haven’t even counted the traffic that would be generated by the bottom-floor retail user (which is rumored to be a Lowe’s). This means, people from all over will be getting into their cars, traveling along New York Ave and Bladensburg Ave. Most people will then use our neighborhood streets to get around the traffic jams.

In addition, more cars coming to DC means that it goes counter to the Comp Plan’s goals of reducing carbon emissions by 30%.

Now, as I said, I am not against redeveloping this area. I am 100% for it. Ā A couple of years ago, Abdo was looking to build a mixed-use development with smaller, community retail under the residential/work force housing (think: Rhode Island Station development). This would be a better use for this site. These plans fell through for Abdo but that doesn’t mean Harry Thomas Jr should jump on the bandwagon of the first developer who wants to build. Promoting mixed-use at this location will create more neighborhood commercial retail with workforce/affordable housing that doesn’t strain our traffic patterns, would provide quality housing for DC’s workforce, and provide more retail options for the immediate area. Harry Thomas claims his goal is to create jobs for Ward 5 residents. Prehaps he needs to read this story by Reuters on Wal-Mart’s jobs and the community:

Wal-Mart’s lengthy struggle to open in New York City has hit fresh problems — a controversial report that said America’s biggest discounter does not just sell cheap, it makes neighborhoods poorer.

I hope that Harry Thomas Jr. takes the lead that other leaders in other Cities have done and focus on quality jobs and quality development and not jump on the bandwagon of the first developer who comes knocking. Thomas should demand a mixed-use development that focuses on neighborhood commercial that doesn’t impact our traffic, environment, or small business potential.

Now, if you want to let Wal-Mart know that this plan as it is currently submitted is not what we want in Ward 5, or if you would prefer that they build an urban-style or mixed-use style of redevelopment, you will have your chance: Wal-Mart is hosting a Meet and Greet on Wednesday, Feb 23rd, at 7:00pm, Room 402 at the John A. Wilson Building.

12 thoughts on “Friday Editorial: Ward 5 Wal-Mart

  1. As a follow-up comment: It has taken me a long time to come to the conclusion as I have but after seeing the proposal, I am not happy with this layout. Perhaps Wal-Mart should build a neighborhood market store (as they have done in Vegas) that is more fitting. I want to see that area redeveloped, it is an eyesore, but I am not going to just accept any brick and mortar.

  2. Thanks for posting this. I think it is great that someone wants to build something over there. I hate that area. But I also agree with you that what is proposed is ridiculous. This is going to be horrible for those of us who live near there. What is Harry Thomas trying to do to us in Ward 5? Strip clubs, night clubs, huge retail centers…seems like he ran for Council to represent developers rather than residents.

    1. You left out Harry Thomas support for Special Signs, giant building size banners and billboards, I guess it’s a beautify DC Campaign. The problem is the lack of elegant, innovative developemnt. In Brookland crowding thousands of new housing units in, truely shoehorning, and destroying greenspace is how DC office of Planning shows off it’s complete lack of professional and educated urban planning. Keeping the DC city council’s 13 hacks from destroying our neighborhoods is a full time job, and I can’t afford to keep fighting.In any city in the US, or the world, Mcmillan Sand Filtration Plant would have been renewed as a park 25 years ago. So the same govt. that dumped millions of dollars down the sewer, while completely wasting a 25 acre park smack in the center of DC, clutches it’s overdevelopment plans for this “once” Great Open Space, like a two year old in a tantrum. Miriam Gusevich, professor of Planning and architecture at CUA designs a brilliant plan to preserve the entire park and lace a City market down in he existing underground galleries, BRILLIANT and World Class. Harry thomas and ironically McMillan vision Partners reject the innovative, environmentally sutainable idea, so maybe e can have another Walmart there or another Brentwood,
      Brentwood Shopping Centers EVERYWHERE!!.Your ideas and comments are TOO sensible, why don’t you move out of DC!!!

  3. I am not against Wal-Mart, but I think they couldve done a better job on those plans. Why does it have to be so big? we don’t need that big of a store here. tell them to build a smaller store like you said. Just a grocery store and something to serve the surrounding community. Thanks for your blog!

  4. This tract of land is not a very desirable location for mixed use. Very far from Metro. Isolated from almost everything by NY Ave/train tracks, the Arboretum and the cemetery. I’m glad you admit any development here would need to be fairly autocentric. Some of the GGW crowd like Hatchard think if a site has a DC address it automatically needs to be held to every urbanist walkability principle under the sun.

    Honestly I never understood what Adbo was smoking. If I was a market rate condo buyer why would I want to live here? It’s sooooo isolated. You’re going to have to give me a different product than a hi-rise apartment or condo because I can get that in one of many other emerging neighborhoods that are also within walking distance of other amenity filled neighborhoods. I believe only a high quality townhouse centric residential product would be able to pull in a large volume of buyers because the district has few *new* townhouses. Ideally one that creates a new street grid rather than having a private suburban subdivision style streets. Having said that it doesn’t seem any residential developer was eager to step in when Abdo backed down. Walmart is interested. The use is apparently by right for the parcel. If the district wanted residential they should have zoned it residential years ago not at the last minute after a developer comes to the table.

    What I’ve seen being proposed for the Walmart retail center includes primarily multi-story parking garages. That is completely appropriate in my opinion. Underground parking is very expensive compared to above ground. With the multistory garage the parking can have a more compact footprint than the Home Depot/Giant does while still maintaining some fiscal sanity. This area of the city does not have the land values of downtown or near metro stations to justify the cost of underground parking. Above ground garages are good enough for Silver Spring, Bethesda, Reston locally and in many cities I’ve visited throughout the country like downtown Seattle.

    The Walmart proposed for Ward 6 is in a premium location accessible to Union Station and within a modest walkshed to an immense volume of office workers and residents. The design for the Ward 6 is fantasticly urban. But its land values and neighborhood context warrant it. The Ward 5 site on the otherhand warrants less. The multi-story parking garage is the compromise. People need to see the glass as half full that it is more urban than what’s found in the suburbs rather than obsessing upon the glass half empty viewpoint.

    1. I agree. I don’t see a problem with the overall layout of this plan. Just make it look nice, and not like a giant concrete box. Make the building attractive, with landscaping, etc.

  5. Jason, Unless you live right next to a Metro station, I think that nearly everywhere in DC is basically auto dependent. So it is naive to assume that this development has to be this way. Just because it is not downtown or that residential doesn’t fit doesn’t mean that it can’t be a good design. I agree with the blogger that they should redesign it. I am happy to see that they are finally doing something with that area, though. That place was an embarrasement.

  6. I thought the plan was from the developer, not Wal-Mart. Has anyone asked the developer (or Wal-Mart) what input Wal-Mart had on this plan?

  7. Thanks for everyone’s comments. @ronnie, Wal-Mart approves their store plans. I agree that the developer has the overall design control but he is not doing anything without Wal-Mart’s say-so. They are the driving force.

  8. This surface parking is ridiculous in a city. The store should be smaller and mainly a grocery since we are being told the big plus is to provide fresh food in “food desert “areas. If all that parking is really necessary put on top of retail buildings not at street level and have the retail face the street . As for housing why not include housing bus service in DC is very good.

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