Wal-Mart’s bluff backfired. It looks like there will not be a 24 hour Wal-Mart supercenter on the corner of 24th. and Baseline Road in Phoenix, Arizona, because a Wal-Mart ultimatum didn’t work. When city officials voted to limit the size of a superstore at that location to 130,000 s.f., Wal-Mart tried to lobby to get the size restriction lifted to 201,534 s.f.. The developer’s lawyer told a forum: “I wouldn’t say the project is dead, but it’s definitely on life support.” According to the Arizona Republic newspaper, a resident then commented: “Pull the plug”. Which is basically what the City Council did this week, when they voted to keep the 130,000 s.f. lid in place. Wal-Mart then announced that their plans were being scrapped. Area residents noted that a huge store the size Wal-Mart wanted was simply out of scale with the Baseline Area Master Plan. “This commercial site was never intended to serve people more than five miles away,” one neighbor pointed out. Resident Joanie Wallace was not pleased with Wal-Mart’s take-it-or-leave it attitude: “The threat from Wal-Mart that ‘we’re going to take our marbles and go home’ — that’s not very community minded.” The developer’s lawyer responded: “It’s not a threat, it’s economics.” In the end, Wal-Mart ended up without any marbles in this case.
The Phoenix city council voted unanimously to rezone the 42 acre site to commercial, with a 130,000 s.f. limit on the size of stores. Wal-Mart could have located on the spot, but the developer said he decided “not to try to cram the user down the neighbor’s throat.” A number of other cities in Arizona are responding with size limits as well: Glendale, Scottsdale, Phoenix and Peoria are all looking at limiting the scale of superstores. “These big boxes are a phenomenon that came rushing in very quickly and pretty much caught us unaware,” said Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs. “They practice predatory business and run other businesses out. We are sending a message to the industry that they don’t have a free rein.”