Another community has sent Wal-Mart packing. If Wal-Mart wants to build in Hercules, California, a suburb 25 miles northeast of San Francisco, they’re going to have to come up with a Plan B. City staff in Hercules shot down Wal-Mart’s Plan A, which was to build a 142,000 s.f. store on 17 acres of land they own as part of the Bayside Marketplace development. The giant retailer said it now has to “reevaluate its options” in response to the city report that a big box store was not “in substantial compliance” with initial development plans negotiated by city and Wal-Mart officials. “Wal-Mart is obviously disappointed by staff’s recommendation, and while we might not agree with their conclusions it seems prudent to withdraw the application in order to reevaluate our options,” said Wal-Mart’s regional manager of public affairs. “We are 100 percent committed to this site and want to take whatever time necessary to assess the city’s comments.” The Wal-Mart store would have been part of a larger Bayside Project, a mixed use project on the city’s waterfront. City officials charged that the inappropriately located store would draw heavy traffic, and force smaller businesses out of the area. They noted that the original development plan for this site called for a retail center 45% of the size Wal-Mart proposed. The city’s staff report said Wal-Mart would “adversely influence the types of tenants” nearby.
The idea of a Wal-Mart on any city’s waterfront is so absurd, that one has to wonder what took city officials so long to reject this. The city had agreed to a 64,000 s.f. store, but Wal-Mart ignored that limit, and came in with a monster of a store. I recall the same type of store proposed for the waterfront in Eureka, California, where voters rejected the idea of a big box on the water. Such scenic areas make little sense for a big box store, but Wal-Mart continues to push such plans on cities, which increasingly push back. The result? Wal-Mart has wasted several months, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of shareholder’s money pursuing a bad real estate gamble. Citizen opposition helped enormously in pushing this enormous project off the map. Wal-Mart says they will be back, and you can be sure it won’t be at 64,000 s.f. So residents have won round one, but must remain vigilant for round two.