Wal-Mart has dropped plans to build one of its superstores in Mobile, Alabama. This makes the 63rd superstore that has been cancelled or delayed since Wal-Mart unveiled its reduced growth plans in June, 2007. In the case of Mobile, very few people will even notice the loss of this project. That’s because there are 10 Wal-Mart stores within 20 miles of Mobile, including two supercenters in Mobile — one on South Beltline Highway and the other on Dawes Road — plus another supercenter 8 miles away in Saraland, and six other nearby supercenters. With such a crowded field of Wal-Marts, one more would never be missed. The proposed Wal-Mart would have been located in the old K-Mart building on Government Boulevard. Wal-Mart said it was withdrawing its plans for economic reasons. According to WKRG News, Mobile City Councilman Reggie Copeland said he was disappointed because the city needs tax money. It appears that instead of a Wal-Mart, the city may get a church on the site. “If a church goes there that’s fine. I’d rather have that than a controversial outlet that would go there and create some problems in the adjacent neighborhood. But with a church going there they know it’s not going to be a serious traffic problem or bright lights at night or what have you, other than the parking lot issue,” said Copeland. Although this Government Boulevard project is now dead, Wal-Mart is still moving forward with a 120,000 s.f. superstore on Airport Boulevard, which was approved by the Mobile Planning Commission in 2007. One of the main reasons supercenters like this one in Mobile are being dropped is because of the super-saturation of similar stores in the area. Wal-Mart has admitted that its growth policies have led to the cannibalization of its own stores, and lackluster same store sales increases.
Mobile, with a population of roughly 193,000 people, is the oldest settlement and the second largest city in the state of Alabama. The historic City Hall and Market Complex is the oldest continuously used seat of municipal government in the nation. Mobile Mayor Sam Jones has been in office since 2005. The Mayor says that one of his main goals is “preserving the historic beauty of the city,” and “providing an excellent workforce for current and prospective employers.” In his State of the City speech in 2007, Mayor Jones acknowledged “the small business development that is occurring throughout our community.” The Mayor referred to these small businesses as “the foundation of our economic base, and extremely valuable to our future growth.” Readers are urged to email Mayor Sam Jones at: [email protected] with this message: “Mayor Jones, the Wal-Mart corporation recently bailed out of its plans to build another superstore in Mobile on Government Boulevard. Instead, you may get a church. This is actually a good piece of news, because Mobile has enough of these national chain stores crowding your community. You have rightly noted that small businesses are the foundation of Mobile’s economic base, and national chains like Wal-Mart basically feed off those smaller merchants. You want good paying jobs for your constituents, and you focus on workforce development. But Wal-Mart is not a form of economic development. They displace jobs rather than create them. Mobile would do well to develop tougher zoning language limiting the size of retail stores to a neighborhood-serving scale. Make them put up a demolition bond to pay for their buildings when they leave them empty — which they will. Wal-Mart is not a long-term neighbor, and they arrive with their bags already packed. Make big boxes fit into the historic fabric of Mobile, and continue to revitalize your downtown, not spur growth on the edge of your city.”