What sound does Wal-Mart make when it gets dropped on its head? That’s the sound you’ll hear today in Porterville, California, where a developer has dumped Wal-Mart out of his proposed 640,000 s.f. shopping center. The proposed project has not even reached the City Council, but Wal-Mart has already been scrapped. The so-called Riverwalk Marketplace will have to walk without Wal-Mart, now that developer Ben Ennis has told the city he unplugged the giant retailer. Riverwalk was slated to be Porterville’s largest retailer center in more than a decade, according to the Porterville Recorder newspaper. Ennis complained that the city was proceeding with another retail project that is only one-ninth the size of the Riverwalk plan. Using the current developer’s buzzword, Ennis described his plan as a “lifestyle center,” perhaps because it enhances the lifestyle of the developer. Ennis says the so-called Commercial Center near his project will jeopardize his grand plan. Ennis says he scrubbed the Wal-Mart because of potential litigation that would hold up the store’s opening for at least two years. “We’ve seen it in Bakersfield (CA), where the grocer’s union under some name sues Wal-Mart, then there’s a countersuit, and then the store opens, but that process takes years,” Ennis told the Recorder. “Wal-Mart has been a great potential tenant, but we came to the understanding that it probably wasn’t going to work.” The Commercial Center project has been moving faster through the permitting process, and Ennis apparently can’t move as quickly as the smaller project. The developer blamed city officials for the delays, and added, “Maybe it’s because I’m a hometown boy, and they think they can do whatever they please.”
Hometown boy drops Wal-Mart. This is not the first time a developer has dropped a Wal-Mart to lighten his load. A developer recently in Brooklyn, New York, let Wal-Mart go to appease opponents. A developer in Leominster, Massachusetts did the same thing in response to litigation by neighbors. If enough pressure is brought to bear, a developer will let Wal-Mart drop. More reason to keep up the pressure.