In his commentary Dec. 8, T.V. Reed of Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development tells us “Wal-Mart is still the good fight.” That fight, however, is running on flat tires.Don is right, of course. PARD will ultimately lose. However, the PARDners have won in the sense that they have delayed the opening of Wal-Mart in Pullman for over two years on behalf of their union masters. What's worse, PARD's futile appeals have cost taxpayers of the city that they hate so much $36,000 that will never be recouped, as well as causing Pullman to lose over a million dollars in potential tax revenue. And the PARDners continue to garner the media coverage and relevance they seemingly so pathetically crave.
My analysis of retailing in downtown Pullman using historical photographs and conversations with older Pullmanites suggests that the amount of space downtown used to sell goods is about one-third the space devoted to retailing 70 years ago, when the population was slightly more than one-fourth today’s level.
Most of the space downtown is devoted to banking, offices of professionals, government buildings, parks, parking lots, and food providers. Common sense tells us a negative impact by Wal-Mart on Brused Books, Licks, Rico’s, the tattoo parlor, and almost everything downtown will be almost zero. Some competition for Sam Dial, the bike shop and a few others will exist, but those folks already have survived even though half our retail dollars are spent in other cities. It is naive to think that a fiscal impact by Wal-Mart on Sam Dial Jewelry can be estimated, nor can it be for any business.
The opportunity to block Wal-Mart from Pullman was lost decades ago. Retailers and roads follow the people. If Washington State University had capped its enrollment at 8,000 students, there would be no Bishop Boulevard, no Wal-Mart, no Pac-10 Conference for us, and no world-class university in Pullman. But Pullman would still be a small, pristine city that PARD dreams about. WSU is the main engine of growth; retailing and roads follow the people who move here for employment.
If Reed counts 750,000 square feet of new retail space on Bishop Boulevard, that will just about bring back the equivalent level of retailing that existed here 70 years ago. PARD will lose again.
Don Pelton, Pullman
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