It definitely wasn’t the kind of reception that Wal-Mart wanted. The corporation lined up three venues this week in the community of Livonia, Michigan to present their standard “this will be unique” road show, but hundreds of local residents just weren’t buying it. Plans by developer Bob Schostak to reconfigure the 74 acre Wonderland Mall that shut down two years ago, had most residents wondering how anyone could propose such an inappropriately scaled project. “We have got to have something there, but give us anything but a Wal-Mart Supercenter,” one Livonia resident told the Livonia Observer. “They already have a reputation in this town and it isn’t pretty.” The Livonia trade area is already saturated with Wal-Marts. There are 6 Wal-Marts within 15 miles of Livonia, including an existing Wal-Mart discount store right in Livonia. Nearby Canton, Taylor, Van Buren, Commerce and Troy all have the same. In addition to a 200,000 s.f. Wal-Mart, developer Schostak wants to add a 130,000 s.f. Target, and several other unnamed big boxes. Despite this enormous scale, the developer described his plan using very different language: “we’re going to develop a pedestrian-friendly place that has a sense of community and a village of retailers – something Livonia really doesn’t have at this time.” A spokesperson said the project would have a “historic village feel.” The developer also promised 500 to 1,000 “new” jobs — not counting those that will be lost elsewhere at existing merchants. Wal-Mart would not say publicly what the new superstore would do to the old one less than two miles away, but that existing store is history, just like the hundreds of discount stores Wal-Mart has shuttered since 1995, as they replaced them with larger superstores. A Livonia resident who attended the “show” filed this report for Sprawl-Busters: “We just got home from the last meeting, which went until 11:00 P.M. We had 400-500 citizens show up both last night and this evening. We currently have a Wal-Mart location a mile away off a major freeway. The current location of Wal-Mart is a huge eye sore to the community and Wal-Mart blames it on the fact that they do not own this property. In the 7+ years that they have been there the only money they have put back into this facility has gone to inside lighting. We are concerned about them being a non-union corporation, as well as the training they give their employees. Not only will this facility face a residential community to the East as well as a Junior High school, but also back right up to a residential community on the South side. This is where Wal-Mart will have their tire center, along with a 100 foot wide alley for semi truck deliveries (which Wal-Mart says there will only be up to three deliveries during daytime hours) with a 50 ft. cement wall barrier and beautiful landscaping berms right in these residents’ back yards. That’s supposed to increase their property values? This Wal-Mart Super center will also be open 24 hours, and we have a Meijers less than a mile away that is currently open 24 hours. If you read our local crime stoppers weekly, both Meijers and the pre-existing Wal-Mart are in there weekly for their crimes that take place. A mini police sub station is supposed to put our minds at ease if that will make our community feel safer? The traffic is a concern in a big way. Middlebelt street, which Wal-Mart will be facing is grid lock now. It is our social and ethical freedom’s as well as responsibility to stand and fight once again against a corporation with unethical American Values, and say, “WE WON’T HAVE THIS IN OUR COMMUNITY EVEN IF IT MEANS WEARE SUED BY WAL-MART”!
This project has only two flaws: it’s in the wrong place, and it’s the wrong size. Huge big box stores have no place next to residential neighborhoods. You can describe them as “historic village”, but they have no historic value, and are certainly not a village scale. 20 foot high berms or walls cannot block the noise, the light pollution, and the fact that the monstrous development is there all day and night. Communities need to insist on smaller, transitional uses in between homes and large commercial projects. Homeowners should not be forced to lose value in their largest investment. This location is simply wrong, and the developer on his own should withdraw his plans in light of the community reception he received this week in Livonia. Scale is important to homeowners, but developers just haven’t come to grips with the reality that they are building projects they themselves would never want to live next to. For local contacts in Livonia, contact [email protected]