If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. On February 19, 2008, Sprawl- Busters reported that Wal-Mart had been hit with a double whammy in Corpus Christi, Texas. One planned supercenter was dead, and a second was mired in a landlord-tenant lawsuit. The dead project was on the southside of the city, in the Timbergate neighborhood. 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. In March, 2007, Wal-Mart squeaked by the Planning Commission on a 5-3 vote in 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 wanted the city to change the land 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, allowing the company to proceed with their rezoning application. Corpus Christi planning staff said at the time that 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. But by February, 2008, plans for the Southside Supercenter had fallen apart, because the landowners announced that they were selling the property to the H.E.B. grocery chain. In the meantime, the second Wal-Mart project at the Parkdale Plaza, a 203,000 s.f. supercenter, ran into a landlord-tenant dispute. Dueling lawsuits were 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 were sued for allowing their parking lot to deteriorate and become pitted. The Parkdale Plaza owners were sued by Sutherlands for 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. On May 2, 2008, The Caller newspaper said that Wal-Mart is now going to make a third try to locate a new store in Corpus Christi. They are going back to the southside of the city near the same Timbergate neighborhood that rejected them. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman would not confirm that the retailer was focusing on a site at Airline Road and Saratoga Boulevard. “There are various sites under consideration on the Southside,” she said, “but we are not yet ready to confirm any specific plans at this time.” But a commercial real estate broker who represents the property owner at Airline and Saratoga, did not deny that a deal is in the works. “When the time is right, we will announce whatever it is that will be on that property, but right now it is too soon to tell.” The residents of Corpus Christi are gearing up for their third battle against Wal-Mart. Having lost their first two battles, it’s clear that Wal-Mart won’t take ‘No’ for an answer.
Wal-Mart has announced that if it opens a new supercenter on the southside of Corpus Christi, the “old” Wal-Mart store on South Padre Island Drive will be shut down. Even on their third attempt, this supercenter is totally incompatible with the land use goals of Corpus Christi. The “official” vision statement for the city says their 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 that vision with a Wal-Mart supercenter. One of the city’s “Focus Areas” is the downtown, and “vacant buildings.” The last thing Corpus Christi needs is a huge, vacant Wal-Mart. 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 fight off a southside Wal-Mart again. 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 the one Wal-Mart on South Padre Island Drive is one more than enough. 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.”