How do you squeeze a 203,400 s.f. superstore onto 11.5 acres of land? Wal-Mart is proposing to build such a store in Gresham, Oregon by building an 800 space parking lot on two levels — but underground. The usual pattern of the huge asphalt parking field in front of the Wal-Mart is a classic suburban design, but in Gresham, Wal-Mart ran out of room. To disguise its huge box building, Wal-Mart is also dragging out a “village supercenter” (oxymoron!) concept it has floated in Minnesota and other places: a drawing that has a bunch of different building materials facades made to look like a row of small shops. One local resident was fooled. She was quoted by the Oregonian newspaper as saying, “When you get to the corner, all you see is these little retail shops. It will look like a little retail center rather than a big Wal-Mart store.” But many Gresham residents see these cosmetic fixes as just skin deep. One resident filed the following report this week: “Wal-mart is having a public meeting January 27th. with 3 neighborhood groups at my children’s school down the street from a proposed supercenter. It is now a defunct higher-end grocery store which was boycotted because the company cleared a popular stand of firs at the
corner to build the parking lot. Wal-Mart intends to raze the building and build underground parking below. The store’s footprint will supposedly be 5 times larger than that of the present store. Because of Oregon’s recent passage of a sweeping property rights compensation measure, along with recent additions to the eastern edge of Portland’s “growth boundary” (encompassing some of the referenced areas), Wal-Mart will have a field day here. Their preposed site is within walking distance to a high school, middle school, and an elementary school, and the property adjoins a popular walking and biking
path. The site is on the edge of a city which governs its use, but Wal-mart is clearly trying to get business from the semirural community which is about to undergo some development. I have advocated for townhome communities with park and fountain centers, rather than endless rowhouses. But big boxes will only encourage more big — and little — boxes.” Another resident told Sprawl-Busters that “the area is something like 99% residential and has streets already over capacity with no ability to widen or put in more. The location is also just north of a protected watershed, which is already polluted and almost no salmon left.” To help identify its supporters, Wal-Mart hired a PR firm and mailed out thousands of fliers to Gresham residents, asking them if they would “speak in favor of the new Wal-Mart store.” A Wal-Mart dog-and-pony show is being held this evening in Gresham.
The only valuable feature of this misplaced, oversized store, is the concept of an underground parking lot. The Wal-Mart rep tried to tell the locals that Wal-Mart helps neighboring retailers by drawing in customers, the so-called ‘retail magnet’ theory. But residential neighbors to the north, south and west know that a supercenter is a homeowner’s nightmare, and they worry that traffic that leads over a two lane bridge will just become unbearable. The city’s deputy director of Environmental Services noted that the project will have to “mitigate its impact” to the roadways, and that “transportation is probably the most controversial, and the pivotal issue.” When all is said and done, Wal-Mart is trying to shoehorn a size 16 foot into a size 8 shoe. It will also have a negative impact on any residential property within hearing or sight range. For local contacts in Gresham, contact [email protected]