Wal-Mart came to Southlake,Texas just eight years ago. Now they want to move out of their current building into a bigger supercenter. Texas leads the nation in empty Wal-Marts. Some residents of Southlake don’t want to see their town become the latest community hosting an empty box. Here’s a report from sprawl-busters in Southlake about the battle that’s shaping up there over a Wal-Mart supercenter: “Southlake’s Mayor James R. (Rick) Stacy (whose family owns large parcels of potentially commercial land in our community) continues his effort to bring a Wal-Mart SuperCenter and Sam’s Club to town with tax breaks, permit waivers and variance offers undisclosed to the public. The Sam’s Club would go in place of the existing smaller Wal-Mart built in 1993.When asked by representatives of a neutral city-funded neighborhood organization if citizens should be told of the incentives that the city is offering Wal-Mart, Mayor Stacy said that public attention would only “hurt” the city’s effort. He then went on to encourage their efforts to advocate for Wal-Mart in violation of the organization’s non-advocacy charter. City officials continue to trumpet the needed tax revenue from a Wal-Mart SuperCenter. They refuse to talk about the true net tax revenue loss to the city caused by 1) overburdened town services 2) business taken away from existing local merchants 3) adjacent property devaluations 4) tax abatements and variances granted. Mayor Stacy was recently quoted as saying that “I just sent them (Wal-Mart) another proposal today and rolled the red carpet halfway to Arkansas.” City officials are also doing a “bait and switch” and “divide and conquer” tactic by only talking about two different sites within the city to put this 200,000 sq. ft. “windowless hulk of dead architecture.” This diffuses the issue of whether to allow a Wal-Mart SuperCenter ANYWHERE in our community and only serves to pit one neighborhood against the other.What makes Mayor Stacy and Southlake city officials even more desperate is that on Jan 15, 2002, Wal-Mart is presenting a formal plan to build a Wal-Mart SuperCenter and Sam’s Club in Grapevine, the town next door, whose Mayor Tate is the cousin of Southlake’s Mayor Stacy. Nothing like a little family competition to inflate egos, all funded by the taxpayers who are kept in the dark.
Big box developers will often pursue several sites in a local community simultaneously. In some cases, the company will build BOTH stores, just a few miles apart. Sometimes they will plant the seed for two stores, to see which one of them is easier to grow. One developer told Stores magazine last May that “Ten years ago, if you worked on 10 sites during the course of a year, you could usually count on getting nine done. Today, if you’re working on 10 sites you can expect about half to get done, and the cost of completing those five will be dramatically higher than it was just a few years ago.” The people in Southlake have no assurances that their existing Wal-Mart will be filled with anything. Given Wal-Mart’s track record, there are a lot more empty stores in Texas than there are Sam’s Clubs to fill them. Some developers say Sam’s Clubs do not fit well into old Wal-Mart discount stores anyway, that the footprint is very different. Wal-Mart could easily build a superstore in Southlake AND Grapevine. Even though both stores would cannibalize each other a little, they would combine to gain more market share for Wal-Mart than it has now. “We became our own competition,” Sam Walton wrote. For more information on Southlake, and the Mayor’s Red Carpet, go to www.neighborhoodsouthlake.com.