Residents in Chandler, Arizona have been fighting Wal-Mart for at least the past six years, trying to keep the giant retailer off of land near the northeastern corner of Queen Creek. Finally, they have managed through perseverance, to dump Wal-Mart from local development plans. A deal was announced this week in Chandler that Vestar, the developer, has replaced Wal-Mart with another tenant, much to the pleasure of local residents. According to the Arizona Republic newspaper, the switch of retailers shows that “neighbors do have the ability to effect change, city officials are capable of listening to their constituency and a developer can still earn a potential profit if it’s willing to listen to representatives from both camps.” Vestar announced that Henry’s Marketplace and Stein Mart are the new anchor tenants of the proposed shopping center. A Wal-Mart spokesman actually attended this week’s Vestar press conference, and admitted that his company should have been clearer with the public. Peter Kanelos, who has been pushing supercenters throughout California with great opposition, said Wal-Mart only wanted to build a “Neighborhood Market” at this site in Chandler, not a supercenter. “Had we explained differently . . . it may have been a much better approach,” Kanelos noted. But residents said they preferred a specialty grocer and a clothing retailer instead. A Vestar representative told the Republic, “We worked with the neighbors and city officials as a team to develop a strategy and a plan of action to attract a new anchor tenant and other tenants they wanted in the community.” City Councilman Matt Orlando, who lives near the intersection and is a former activist who opposed the Wal-Mart, confirmed the two store names. “It’s been a long six years,” said Orlando, who was elected to the City Council in May. “These are really good tenants that will fit into the neighborhood.” The dispute goes back to 1998, when
Wal-Mart announced plans to build a Supercenter at the site. Neighborhood protests, council votes, lawsuits and a new city “big box law” derailed those plans over the years. When Vestar posted a sign earlier this year at the site announcing a Wal-Mart grocery store, residents said the intersection didn’t need a fourth traditional grocer and threatened to boycott the Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart has proven tireless over the years in pushing its agenda on local residents, but in cases like Chandler, the citizens have proven to be just as tireless in their opposition. For earlier stories on this subject, search this database by “Chandler”. Congratulations to the residents who negotiated new tenants at Vestar.