Wal-Mart is trying to “skinny” its profile to get support in Portland, Oregon for another store. Sprawl-Busters reported on February 8, 2008, that Wal-Mart had given up on its efforts to build a store in northeast Portland, Oregon is gone. A quiet neighborhood in Portland got a rude wake up call in the Fall of 2006 when a developer announced plans for a 240,000 s.f. development including a 180,000 to 190,000 s.f. big box store located on a former gravelpit/landfill/golf driving range site directly across from one of the city’s high schools. This proposal exceeded the current zoning of 60,000 s.f. and would have pushed a retail store five blocks into residential streets. The project was located on 25 acres of land zoned for light industrial, not commercial. On October 5, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that the Toronto-based developer, SmartCentres, had pulled its plans for the supercenter on 82nd Avenue and Siskiyou Street — but left the door open to return with something more acceptable to the city and the neighborhood. “Our intention is
to resubmit in the near future after having considered all of the environmental — figuratively speaking — concerns,” said a spokesman for SmartCentres. The citizen’s group which organized to stop this Wal-Mart project, Save Madison South, called the Canadian developer’s pull out “very exciting news,” but warned that they had just won “our first round in our fight for livability!” “We want to caution everyone that this isn’t over yet,” the group said. “The owner and developer have already indicated plans to come forth with another proposal in the coming months.” The Save Madison South Coalition said it was fully prepared to continue its campaign. “This land is still open to development proposals and we are committed to working towards the right fit for the neighborhood.” In February of 2008, SmartCentres formally withdrew its option to purchase the 26-acre parcel of land. But local activists knew that more battles lay ahead. This week, the Oregonian newspaper announced another launch of a Wal-Mart bid to construct a store on the north side of the city. This time, Wal-Mart has dramatically shrunk its footprint to 86,000 s.f. The store would be located in Hayden Meadow owned by a Portland developer. According to the Oregonian, “In its previous Portland pushes in 2005 and 2006, Wal-Mart faced withering criticism from Portland Mayor Sam Adams, among others, concerned about low wages and poor benefits. The newspaper says Wal-Mart’s strategy now with Mayor Adams is to promote itself as a ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ company.
Wal-Mart has been burned twice in Portland. Two times the company had to pull back on store plans in the face of organized neighborhood opposition. Wal-Mart currently has one discount store on S.E. 82nd Avenue, but there is also a Wal-Mart superstore just 9 miles away in Vancouver, Washington. In addition to their new ‘smaller’ look — Wal-Mart has told city officials that it wants to expand its store on 82nd Avenue into a superstore. According to the Portland Business Journal, Wal-Mart claimed that their new store would create roughly 300 “new jobs” and feature sustainable features such as high-efficiency LED lighting. The expansion of its existing store, from 136,000 s.f. to 158,500 s.f. would result in another 100 new workers, the retailer claimed. In all, Wal-Mart is thus promising 400 new jobs — which is grossly misleading, since the ‘new jobs’ will mostly displace existing jobs already at cash registers at other retailers in Portland. The Wal-Mart expansion and the proposed store in the Hayden Meadow area would give Portland two supercenters, which would eat up market share from existing grocers in the trade area, which includes Albertson’s, Safeway, Fred Meyer, and a lot of small, locally-owned neighborhood grocery stores. The Wal-Mart proposals were apparently discussed behind closed doors with Portland, Oregon Mayor Sam Adams, who has a vision for the future of his city. “When I took office in January,” the Mayor has said, “I made a commitment — that Portland would become not just the most sustainable city in the nation, but among the most sustainable economies in the world. We would invest in our neighborhoods, our streets, and our entrepreneurs.” Readers are urged to email Mayor Sam Adams at http://www.portlandonline.com/mayor/index.cfmaction=UpdateItem&category_id=1021&c=49271 with the following message: “Dear Mayor Adams, Creating two Wal-Mart supercenters in Portland does not really fit into your ‘economic development strategy,’ which focuses on Portland’s most competitive industries, and promises to create 10,000 new jobs in the next five years. Wal-Mart does not create ‘new’ jobs. It is a form of economic displacement. Wal-Mart captures sales from other merchants, and shifts market share. No ‘new’ jobs will come of this project — just more big boxes that one day will sit empty. Keep the focus on growth that adds value to your local economy, not suburban sprawl that undercuts the businesses already open in Portland. Inviting Wal-Mart to set up superstores in Portland is like inviting cannibals to dinner.”