When Wal-Mart caved into local opposition, and abandoned its plans to build a “Neighborhood” Market in northwest Denver, Colorado, the real neighbors knew that something better was coming. They didn’t have long to wait. This week, the Denver Planning Board approved the final anchor tenant for a new urbanist-style mixed-used project called Highlands Garden Village. This village of homes, townhouses, apartments and a housing co-op, will have a 28,000 s.f. grocery store instead of Wal-Mart. The Sunflower Market and two other smaller retail buildings are the final stages of the seven-year-old community, according to the Rocky Mountain News. A second retail building will be 16,000 square feet and the third will be about 9,000 square feet. Wal-Mart withdrew from the deal, according to the newspaper, because of a “huge public protest” created by local residents.
It is helpful, whenever possible, for local residents to remind elected officials that there are alternatives to big box developments, and developers who are willing to invest in pedestrian-friendly, appropriately-scaled projects. The Highlands Garden Village is an example of what can happen if a community beats Wal-Mart. The land does not have to remain vacant or non-productive. In northwest Denver, there is visible proof that life goes on without Wal-Mart.