Walmart’s DC Expansion Thwarted
Posted on August 3, 2012 by jway
On Thursday, the Washington Examiner published a front page story on Walmart’s failure to open a store in DC before the end of 2012.
In 2009 the company announced that it would open four Supercenters in DC’s 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th wards by the end of 2012. Then, in November 2011, the company announced two more locations. But to date Walmart has only begun construction at one site and demolished an existing building at another. The other four are still being held up in various stages of the permitting process.
Walmart’s Senior Director of Community Affairs gave one explanation for the hold up, “We’re striking a balance between an unprecedented level of community engagement and an efficient and realistic construction schedule.”
What Walmart considers “efficient and realistic” has changed considerably since it first announced the DC projects. In April 2012 Walmart told the Washington Post that only one of its planned six stores would open by the end of 2013. That’s a delay of over one year for most of their sites. The Post cited “resistance from activists and opponents” as a reason for the drawn-out timeline. Company Spokesman Steven Restivo’s take was unsurprisingly more convoluted:
“While construction timelines are fluid and driven mostly by the developer, we’re using the extra time to further engage with the neighborhoods that surround our stores and build even more support for Walmart.”
As Walmart revisits its “fluid” construction schedule, it might also want to change its approach to community engagement. For years Walmart has ignored requests from the Respect DC coalition to meet face-to-face and craft a real Community Benefits Agreement that addresses wages, healthcare, full-time vs. part-time status, local hiring, training for its associates and the vitality of nearby small businesses.
Until that happens, we suspect Walmart will continue to see delays in the district and elsewhere. If the last two years have taught the company anything, it’s that DC’s residents have a lot more say about the fate of their communities than Walmart had planned on.
This post was written by Kurt Scott.