One of Denver, Colorado’s must unique shopping areas is under fire from the Wal-Mart corporation. The Alameda Square shopping area, a collection of 25 local businesses, including Vietnames restaurants, a jewelry store, the United Vietnamese -American Council, an Asian supermarket, bakery — will all be bulldozed to make way for another characterless big box supercenter if city officials don’t change course. According to the June 7th Denver Post, the Asian business leaders who put life back into what had been a moribund strip mall, are now facing eviction. City Councilwoman Ramona Martinez, who apparently has been promoting big box stores as a loose form of economic development, says he district has “long been underserved by business”. Apparently the Vietnames, Cambodian, Laotian and Chinese merchants who have set up shop in West Denver don’t count in the equation. But this past week, Denver Mayor Wellington Webb went out for lunch with local businessmen at the King’s Land Chinese restaurant. The city has apparently offered to help businesses relocate, but not to pay them for their economic losses in doing so. The owners of King’s Land have gathered more than 800 signatures in opposition to the Wal-Mart land war against the people of Alameda Square. To add insult to injury, Wal-Mart has asked Denver taxpayers to swallow $10 million in welfare payments to Wal-Mart in the form of tax breaks to pay the company back for its construction costs. So the wealthiest retailer in the world needs tax kick backs to be able to build a store that will displace several dozen local businesses. And it appears that the Denver Urban Renewal Authority is willing to help get the $10 million subsidy off the ground. Local businesses, who are angered by the displacement, point out that they resuscitated a dead are into a major center of activity. One local resident told the Denver Post: “Where can I find another place like this? Wal-Mart is a big corporation. They can find another place.”
A similar bulldozing of local residents is underway in Hood River, Oregon (see recent story), where 26 families (many of them Latino) are being threatened with eviction from their mobile homes to make way for a Wal-Mart supercenter. I have seen Home Depot try this with mobile home tenants, IKEA tried to do it to an entire neighborhood in New Rochelle, etc. The corporations usually hide behind the local landowner or developer, offering no comment about the uprooting of local people, offering no help in relocation, and taking no responsibility for what happens to the lives of people who are moved out. But in west Denver, Wal-Mart has triggered a full scale Asian war.