There’s double bad news for Wal-Mart supercenter projects in Corpus Christi, Texas. On February 6, 2008, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart was pushing two new superstores at once in Corpus Christi. It turns out that both of the projects are in trouble. One supercenter seems to be dead, and the other is now locked in a landlord-tenant lawsuit. The southside Wal-Mart in the Timbergate neighborhood appears to be dead. A group called Moms Against Wal-Mart spoke out against the retailer’s plans to rezone land from residential to commercial in the middle of their neighborhood. The homeowners in the Timbergate neighborhood say traffic already is a nightmare, and a project the scale of this supercenter definitely will kick up traffic, boost crime, and lower property values. According to the Caller-Times newspaper, Wal-Mart got a waiver approved by the city’s Planning Commission in November 2007, after resubmitting their plans for a rezoning months ago. Back in March, 2007, Wal-Mart squeaked by the Planning Commission on a 5-3 vote favor of the project. But in June, Wal-Mart withdrew their rezoning application for South Staples Street just one day before it was scheduled to come before the City Council. Normally, if an application is pulled, the proponent has to wait a full year before resubmitting. But in this case, Wal-Mart asked that their cooling off period be cut in half. Wal-Mart is petitioning the city to change the land they want from its current designation of R-1B, or single family, to B-1, a neighborhood business district. To apply for the B-1 zone, Wal-Mart had to eliminate a tire and lube center from the mix. City staff admitted that granting a waiver was a “rare occurrence.” But when the Planning Commission met, they voted unanimously to approve a “rare” waiver for Wal-Mart officials to proceed with their rezoning application. Several weeks ago, Corpus Christi planning staff said the retailer had not given them enough information to make a decision. “We need time to review and recommend and we’re frankly not convinced (the latest information from Wal-Mart is) adequate, but it’s at least a step in the right direction,” the city’s planning director told the Caller Times newspaper. But this week, the Caller Times reports that plans for the Southside Supercenter have fallen apart, because the landowners have announced that they are selling the property to another buyer. The buyer’s plans don’t require rezoning, so the owners came to agreement with the new buyer, who has not been revealed. In the meantime, the second Wal-Mart project at the Parkdale Plaza has run into a landlord-tenant dispute. Dueling lawsuits have been filed by the Parkdale Plaza owners and their tenants, the Sutherlands, a home improvement chain store in 13 states in the south, Midwest and Gulf Coast. The Sutherlands are being sued for allowing their parking lot to deteriorate and become pitted. The Parkdale Plaza owners are being sued by Sutherlands ford violating an agreement not to allow a direct competitor to the home improvement store into the Plaza. Sutherlands says their lease prevents the landlord from allowing another prospective tenant to be “permitted to sell building materials and/or home improvement supplies and services.” Sutherlands wants Wal-Mart to show that its product mix would not affect Sutherlands’ business and current lease. The Parkdale Plaza owners says the Sutherlands lawsuit is freezing progress on the Wal-Mart Supercenter and that Sutherlands needs to maintain its parking lot, or the company could face a termination of their lease. Wal-Mart won’t sign a lease with Parkdale until the issue with Sutherlands is settled. The Wal-Mart Supercenter at Parkdale is a huge, 203,000 s.f. store, plus an additional 44,000 s.f.
If Wal-Mart opens a new supercenter, the “old” Wal-Mart store on South Padre Island Drive will go dark, and workers at that store would be transferred to one of the new supercenters. Corpus Christi is a city that has one vision it talks about, but another vision it lives. The “official” vision statement for the city says the goal is, “To make Corpus Christi one of the most livable communities in America. To create a vibrant, progressive, clean city that rejoices in its diversity…and provide an abundance of economic development opportunities while paying special attention to our unique environment.” It’s hard to reconcile this vision with a Wal-Mart supercenter. One of the city’s “Focus Areas” is the downtown, and “vacant buildings.” The city cannot invest in its downtown and keep permitting big box stores outside the central business district. Readers are urged to let Mayor Henry Garrett, and Planning Commission Chairman Bryan Stone, know that Corpus Christi should hope that the Parkdale Plaza deal unravels like the Timbergate Wal-Mart did. Go to the Mayor’s Comment Form, at http://www.cctexas.com/forms/Mayorsform/MayorsCommentForm.cfm, and tell the Mayor and Planning Commission that “Wal-Mart is incompatible with the vision statement for Corpus Christi, and that its good news for the city that the Timbergate project has fallen apart. Texas currently has 24 dead Wal-Marts. It doesn’t need one more in Corpus Christi.” The city should take this opportunity to put a cap on the size of retail buildings and stop encouraging superstore sprawl.”