Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"Wal-Mart rumors just that - for now; Company official won't confirm or deny site being considered in proposed Hawkins development"

I have several comments on this article from today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:

1. This rumor is as old as a brontosaurus. It has been around at least as long as Wal-Mart dropped its plans to go into Moscow some two years ago. It must be a slow news week to dredge this story up now with no new information.

2. There is no reason to think that Wal-Mart will pull out of Pullman at this juncture. They have invested quite a bit in legal and engineering expenses, and don't forget, they own the land on Bishop Blvd., paying $1.4 million for it back in April 2006.

3. A sound economic case can be made for having a Wal-Mart at Hawkins and in Pullman. As I demonstrated with Reilly's Law of Retail Gravitation, there are two distinct Pullman and Moscow Retail Trade Areas. The Hawkins development will be located 2 miles within the Moscow Retrail Trade Area.

4. Hawkins would likely have to redo its site plan to accomodate a Wal-Mart Supercenter. The current plans call for three big-box stores around 160,000 sq. ft. Wal-Mart Supercenters are generally around 200,000 sq. ft. Parking would probably need to be increased as well.

5. Once again, I state that all the opposition to Hawkins from the City of Moscow and Mark Solomon has been due to this rumor and Wal-Mart Derangement Syndrome. The NoSuperWalMart group of which Solomon is a key player and which includes several key Chaney political allies, released a flyer in September 2006 called "Closing the Gaps," which stated:
Thanks to an energized Moscow community and a City Council with the strength to say “NO” to a bad development proposal, Wal-Mart was shut down in their attempt to build a SuperCenter in town. But we╩╝re not totally in the clear, yet.

There are two other possibilities for siting a SuperCenter close to Moscow. One is in the county immediately outside the city limits called the Area of City Impact. The other is across the state line along the Pullman Highway.
Unfortunately for NoSuperWalMart, they lost both those battles. Latah County refused to institute a big-box ordinance in the Area of City Impact and now Moscow has dropped its water rights transfers appeals against Hawkins.

6. No matter what happens, it seems likely the old Wal-Mart in Moscow is destined to close if a new store opens. You can tell from what the Wal-Mart spokeswoman says that Wal-Mart does not like to operate in those smaller formats. All the PARD arguments about "One Wal-Mart is Enough" are preposterous. But don't worry, all the current Wal-Mart employees will be offered positions at whereever a new Supercenter opens.

7. Despite PARD's insistence that there is only a "small, vocal minority" that wants Wal-Mart in Pullman, it is evident from this story that idea is completely false. And those people are getting impatient. I am just one of many. I have no idea who Joann Haynes is. But I hear all the time from people who want Wal-Mart, NOW.

8. Similarly, despite PARD claims that I am the "Wal-Mart surrogate." the "avid Wal-Mart groupie," or a paid shill, I have no special insights or lines of communication to the company. I know as much as you do from reading the paper. I just pray Wal-Mart sticks it out and doesn't lose interest in Pullman.
Joann Haynes has heard the rumors about Wal-Mart.

The Pullman resident said she's heard through the grapevine that the Moscow store is slated to close and be replaced by a Wal-Mart Supercenter in the Hawkins Companies' proposed retail development in Whitman County.

Furthermore, Haynes said she's heard that if the plan gets the OK, Wal-Mart officials would scrap the project to locate in Pullman, as the county location could be shared by customers throughout the area.

Karianne Fallow, Idaho Wal-Mart public affairs manager, said there's no truth to the rumor - yet.

Fallow said the Moscow store will continue to operate as usual, but added that Wal-Mart officials have been interested in opening a super center in the city for several years.

In May 2006, the Moscow City Council denied a rezone that would have allowed the retail giant to pursue construction of a store on 77 acres east of town. The larger store would provide merchandise and groceries - a one-stop shopping experience Fallow said customers want.

"The modern Wal-Mart customer prefers the convenience of general merchandise paired with grocery," she said. "Our goal would be to serve our customers in Moscow with a super center. We don't have any plans to close (the current store) right now ... but the property where we exist is too restrained to do an expansion."

Since the rezone was denied, Fallow said store officials have kept an eye out for land that could accommodate a bigger store. The company is aware of the proposed Hawkins development, but Fallow would not confirm or deny whether store officials are negotiating to relocate there.

"We're always looking at any properties for opportunity," she said. "At this point, I can't confirm that because we don't have land under contract now ... But any opportunity would be a good opportunity for us to consider."

Jennifer Holder, Wal-Mart public affairs manager for Washington, said she also is aware of the rumor, but to her knowledge the rumblings are unfounded.

She said any strategy to relocate or expand the Moscow store wouldn't affect plans to construct a Wal-Mart Supercenter on Bishop Boulevard in Pullman.

"Moscow is a completely different market," she said.

Holder said store officials still are waiting for a court decision before breaking ground in Pullman. Wal-Mart announced plans to build in Pullman in October 2004 and a site plan for the store was later approved by the city.

The grass-roots Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development later appealed the approval of the corporation's environmental checklist and site plan on the grounds the store would affect stormwater run-off, traffic and negatively affect Pullman's local economy.

The case is being considered by the Washington State Division III Court of Appeals in Spokane. Holder said a decision is expected by June.

"We have no plans - no activities - until that decision is handed down," she said. "I know there are a lot of people anxious about it. I've even gotten calls from elected officials who have asked, 'When are you going to break ground?' ... We're waiting like everyone else."

Haynes said she is a supporter of a store being constructed in Pullman and is distressed by the rumor, so much that she admits to spreading it in an effort to determine whether if it's true or not.

"I really still want to see Wal-Mart in Pullman," she said. "If it was out there (in the county) it would still mean I have to buy more gas and get out on the highway with the ice and snow."

Angela Grant hadn't heard the rumor, but said she wouldn't be surprised if it was true.

"With a big new development there, they might look at that spot," said the Moscow resident and co-owner of Lilliput.

Grant said she does shop at Wal-Mart occasionally, and added that if the store were to relocate in Whitman County she'd do what she could to keep her dollars in Idaho by purchasing items at other stores, such as WinCo.

"If we're going to be buying the same products, we may as well stay local," she said. "I try to find as much stuff as I can (elsewhere in town) so I don't have to go to Wal-Mart."

Haynes said she's relieved to hear Wal-Mart still intends to build in Pullman, but she's ready to start filling her cart now.

"If that's the case, that's good, but it's sure taking its time," she said. "We're supposed to be shopping there right now."
Technorati Tags:

No comments: