Murfreesboro, Tennessee already has two Wal-Mart superstores: one on South Rutherford Boulevard, and a second on Old Fort Parkway. For a city with less than 93,000 people, some residents think they have enough Wal-Marts. But not Mayor Tommy Bragg. “You find that neighborhoods spring up in a lot of places and people like to have neighborhood shopping. I feel like is apparent that our community is growing and access needs to spread to other neighborhoods.” How any elected official could call a store 4 times the size of a football field an example of “neighborhood” shopping, is a mystery — but the developer of this project also has maintained a mystery of its own. After months of talking about the so-called ‘Cannonsburg Place’ shopping center, M&W Murfressboro Joint Venture has refused to identify who the proposed anchor store is. The developer claims a tenant has not signed a contract yet. But the main building, at 204,000 s.f. with 977 parking spaces and a gas station, is clearly another Wal-Mart supercenter. Perhaps the developer remembers the hue and cry that arose in 2005, when plans for a 3rd Wal-Mart supercenter on Memorial Boulevard were defeated because of strong community opposition. Mayor Bragg says this new project has not drawn fire from any critics yet. The city’s Planning Director told the Daily News Journal that this big box store would change the “paradigm” on South Church Street and County Farm Road. Residents would agree, because the superstore is totally out of scale with the rest of the area, which is predominately residential. “This is a large development,” the Planning Director admitted. “It is going to have a large impact.” Residents turned out at a meeting of the Murfreesboro Planning Commission in early November to protest the plan. The land not only has to be rezoned from residential to planned commercial development, a portion of the parcel has to be annexed into the city. “It is an area of growth – current and future growth,” the developer told the Murfreesboro Post. “We feel it is an ideal situation for a big box.” The developer is telling residents the project will be a “high end retail development,” with greenspace, an active fountain, walking areas and benches. But many residents know the only things that will be on the “high end” of this proposal will be the high traffic counts and the high crime statistics. In fact, one of the Wal-Marts in Murfreesboro was in the news recently because a 69 year old woman disappeared after leaving her home at about 1:30 a.m. to run errands. She has been missing for more than a week, but police found her car parked in a remote corner of the Wal-Mart parking lot. Police are circulating a photo of a man captured on Wal-Mart surveillance video, seen riding away from the woman’s SUV on a bicycle the day she vanished. It’s a simple equation: more supercenters, more crime.
With this latest incident as a backdrop, why would anyone in Murfreesboro want another superstore? As one resident told the Daily News Journal, “I’m really not sure we need another superstore in town.” Mayor Bragg’s message on his website says, “Murfreesboro’s past is alive and well… our historic district designation has preserved our city’s past. In addition, our residents and visitors enjoy a charming historic downtown square filled with unique shops and places to dine… Today, Murfreesboro is enjoying unprecedented growth in its housing, restaurant and retail development.” The city cannot continue to pursue two conflicting goals at once. There is no such thing as an historic city surrounded by malls and sprawl. The “charming downtown” will become nothing but a tourist attraction of boutique stores and niche businesses, while the bulk of retail transactions take place inside big national boxes located by the highways. Local officials are fast-tracking this project. In early November, the city’s Planning Commission approved the rezoning, and in late November, the City Council held a hearing on the project. Readers are urged to contact Mayor Tommy Bragg at (615) 849-2629, or drop him an email at :[email protected] with this message: “Mr. Mayor, the motto of Murfreesboro is ‘creating a better quality of life.’ A third Wal-Mart supercenter in the city does not add to your quality of life — especially in an historic community that is trying to maintain its character as an attractive place to live. Putting a huge commercial project on the edge of the city, in a largely residential area, is bad zoning. People like to have neighborhood shopping, but a supercenter nearly four times the size of a football field is not a form of neighborhood shopping. Don’t annex, don’t rezone this property. Your two Wal-Marts are two more than enough.”