Great article. This is going on all over Georgia, not just in Atlanta. One of the problems is that the state doesn't have a big-box ordinance in place, like other more progressive states who have already addressed urban growth and density issues.
UGA's Land Use Clinic wrote a report in 2007, but as far as I know, none of our officials have made an ordinance a priority. Time to pressure them on all the issues that can adversely affect a walkable and sustainable city.
"you simply can't make the case that having a local wal-mart where lower income folks can afford healthy and fresh food is a bad thing. people are really hurting in these neighbourhoods, they really need something like this."
Actually I can make the case that the Walmart at the old Avondale Mall site, in a relatively depressed demographic, has higher prices by double, than the Dekalb Farmers Market. The pricing may even be higher than our 'local' Krogers, although I'll have to go out to prove that today. And they had no customers at all in their produce department when I was there. The shoppers aren't buying 'fresh' from that Walmart, that's for sure.
Hundreds of civic and economics studies over 2 decades have shown that local businesses create 3 times the economic activity of big-box stores and that revenue stays IN the community. Walmart outsources all their suppliers, which loses more US jobs. In fact, a 2007 Economic Policy Institute brief states that:
"While Wal-Mart was responsible for 9.3% of U.S. imports in this period, it was responsible for 11.2% of the U.S. job losses due to growing trade deficits with China. Since Wal-Mart’s exports to China were negligible, the rapid growth of its imports had a proportionately bigger impact on the U.S. trade deficit and job losses than overall U.S. trade flows with China (since the rest of U.S. trade with China does include significant U.S. exports to that country). On average, each of the 4,022 stores Wal-Mart operated in the United States7 was responsible for the loss of about 77 jobs due to Wal-Mart’s trade deficit with China in 2006."
You might ask the developer where the local businesses are, it's their responsibility as a part of the community, to entice businesses. What have they done in the past 15 years? I would be asking that question of Selig, not of a grass roots group.
Plenty of communities have stopped big-box chains in their tracks even when their representatives and town councils have been bought off, even when the 'legally allowed' business going in has 'proper zoning'.
It may be perfectly proper and smarter - to also change zoning ordinances for big-box stores over a certain square footage; this type of store has no place in an urban and densely populated footprint.
Yes, the plaza was built in the 1960's - the decade that promoted automobiles and no walking - that model is outdated for smart growth and so is a super-sized Walmart. That's why they're experimenting with 1000foot 'pop-up' stores now.
Some of you may not be aware of a 2007 UGA Land Use Clinic paper, that investigated the fact that the entire state of GA has no ordinance to prevent big-box chains.
Many other states do have these ordinances in place and they put them into effect for the express purpose of protecting urban areas from sprawl. Does Dekalb need updated zoning? I think so.
Civic and economic studies over the decades have found that chains inevitably pull resources away from communities.
They do not, in fact, create more jobs and more income. Tax abatements offset any tax assets to the community.
Do you really want this part of Decatur to look like a Jersey strip mall?
For everyone who thinks Walmart will create oodles of jobs and value for the customer, I challenge you to read the research posted on GGD's site and/or do your own sleuthing with shopping comparisons.
I was stunned to discover that the Dekalb Farmers Mkt (and probably Kroger too) is much cheaper than the Walmart on Columbia & Memorial. By a third and by half cost for most produce.
Creative Loafing Atlanta
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