Wal-Mart is ready to build another store in Phoenix, Arizona, but after more than two years of trying, it keeps losing developers. On April 11, 2008, Sprawl-Busters reported that a developer called The Bunch Company had left a 39,000 s.f. Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market all dressed up with nowhere to go. A planned 80,000 s.f. shopping center in the Ahwatukee neighborhood of Phoenix, near the Desert Foothills Parkway and Chandler Boulevard, was supposed to include a 24 hour Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market — which is the retailer’s “smallest” format store. But in April, it was revealed that The Bunch Company had a bunch of financial problems, and owed its bank $7.2 million, and the city of Phoenix $72,000 in property taxes. That left Wal-Mart nowhere in the neighborhood. But Wal-Mart said it was ready to roll out its store, as soon as another owner stepped forward. “Nothing has changed from our end, we’re ready to move forward on the project,” a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart told the Foothill News. “It is a good location and a good area to serve.” The Bunch Company had planned to build another 40,000 s.f. of retailing around the Neighborhood Market. The city of Phoenix gave this project a green light in 2007, and Wal-Mart has invested several years into researching the site, according to the newspaper. “We spent extra time with city staff and the community to make sure they were comfortable with what we proposed,” Wal-Mart claimed. But with developers dropping like flies, it could be months, or even years, by the time Wal-Mart gets to Phoenix. This week, Wal-Mart announced that it has ended its lease on the property on Chandler Boulevard. A second developer, BMB Marketplace LLC, filed for bankruptcy, leaving the Wal-Mart project floundering in Phoenix. According to the Arizona Republic, another developer Towne Bank bought the land for more than $8.5 million on August 4th. BMB Marketplace filed a motion just over a week ago to terminate is business relationship with Wal-Mart. After all these vanishing developers, Wal-Mart still sees itself building this market. Wal-Mart has invested in this project since May of 2006. “We have a lot of that good faith, I think, built up with the community,” a Wal-Mart spokesman told The Republic. “We’d like to find a way to make the project a reality.” One way forward would be for Wal-Mart to buy the land from Towne Bank. But to date, Town Bank has not said what it plans to do with its recently acquired property.
The residents of Phoenix have no problem getting cheap Chinese underwear. There are currently seven Wal-Mart supercenters in Phoenix, so no one has to travel more than a few minutes to fill up on low-value imports. As of last June, 2007, when Wal-Mart started to cut back on its superstore development, the retailer had 13 discount stores left in Arizona, 49 supercenters, 13 Sams Clubs, and 11 Neighborhood Markets. This Ahwatukee store would have been the first Neighborhood Market in Phoenix. The Ahwatukee Foothills Village is composed of master-planned communities with desert landscaping, golf courses and lakes. The presence of South Mountain provides numerous washes and trails for hiking, biking, walking and jogging. These amenities attract residents who value nature’s beauty and enjoy an active family life. The village has a planning committee that serves the community by providing review and recommendations on proposals for new zoning districts and changes to the General Plan. In addition, the committee works to identify and resolve local planning problems. There are 21 members of this planning group, including the Mayor of Phoenix, Phil Gordon. Readers are urged to email Mayor Gordon at [email protected] with this message: “Mr. Mayor, It’s terrific news that Wal-Mart has cancelled its lease for the Ahwatukee project. The residents of Ahwatukee are fortunate to have the chance to rethink the idea of a Wal-Mart Neighorhood Market. You have been a champion of preserving neighborhoods, and you have also been a local business owner. Phoenix to date has been flooded with Wal-Mart supercenters — 7 of them. Don’t make the same mistake with the “Neighborhood” Markets. If you want to preserve the feeling of small scale neighborhoods, then preserve the scale of its retail services. A Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market is almost the size of an acre — just for the building. Slightly smaller than a football field of building space. This is not a neighborhood facility. I would urge you to look to your zoning code, bring the issue to the Ahwatukee Planning Committee, and pass an ordinance that limits the size of retail buildings and creates “neighborhood retail districts” like Ahwatukee that keep the size of shopping malls and stand alone stores to no more than 25,000 s.f. each. If you want to protect the “nature’s beauty” that Ahwatukee Village boasts of, then Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets are not what you want in the neighborhood.”