Why Not a Neighborhood Market?

June 19, 2012 at 1:55pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

One of the oft-presented alternate plans to Walmart’s proposed new store on South 27th Street is that they build a “Market” rather than a “Supercenter”.  Before anybody gets too deeply invested in that idea, let’s think about why it’s (probably) not a viable alternative for Walmart.

Walmart Markets are not just small Walmarts or Walmart Supercenters. A Walmart Market is a grocery store, nothing more. Proposing a Market instead of a Supercenter is comparable to proposing a bakery instead of a Super Saver. One is a subcomponent of the other, but the two are not interchangeable. I obviously can’t speak for Walmart, but I’d be surprised if Lincoln is anywhere near being in the running for a Market right now. Our grocery store market isn’t hyper-competitive, but the Hy-Vee / Russ’s / Super Saver trio appear to be handling things just fine.

Walmart Markets are smaller than Supercenters. Much smaller. Most Markets are around 40,000 square feet, whereas the proposed Supercenter is about three times that size. So although getting a Market instead of a Supercenter might at first seem like a win, it’s probably not. No way would the developer just let that excess square footage go to waste. One would think that the developer would fill up the space with ... well, something. And that something isn’t going to be green space. There will still be delivery vehicles and there will still be traffic.

And don’t get me started on the ridiculousness of the suggestion that Walmart could just move out to Highway 77 and Warlick Boulevard, as though that location were somehow equivalent. Remember, Walmart wanted to move out there but the project collapsed. Considering the investments made in that area, if Walmart could make a store happen there on terms it could be happy with, it would happen.

It may seem like I’m telling neighbors to just shut up and accept their fate. That’s ... half true. I empathize with them and I encourage them to put up a stink—it’s worth a shot, after all. At the same time, it’s obvious to me that their strongest opportunity to complain passed long ago. They should have recognized what the zoning on that parcel permitted and attacked preemptively. The City’s decision to carve out a space for big box retail in the midst of a neighborhood is just plain bizarre. A year ago it would have been relatively simple to get that changed.

But not today. Today neighbors should engage in a flurry of defensive tactics. Think about fences and berms. Think about noise and lighting. Think about signage and trash. In other words, craft a list of reasonable-but-tough requests and demands for your soon-to-be neighbor and start working to make them happen. If neighbors spend all their time bitching they’ll miss yet another window of opportunity, this time to help turn this (perceived) lemon into something approximating lemonade.

Mayor Chris Beutler said this morning that he won’t get in Walmart’s way on this project. (One can only imagine the fit Colleen Seng would be throwing right now if she were still mayor.) It’s very likely to happen. I hope neighbors figure out how to fight for themselves rather than just fighting against a perceived enemy.

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The Comments

joe June 19, 2012 at 11:21pm

Wasn’t it Wal-Mart (or is it Walmart?) who pulled out of the original HWY 77 plan, leaving the city on the hook for 4 million dollar?

I find it interesting that Camp is opposing this, considering his positions on the last Wal-Mart.
What’s good for north Lincoln isn’t good for south Lincoln?

The whole thing is kinda silly really, that part of town is a sea of big box stores, car dealers, high traffic businesses, why is Wal-Mart so much worse than Target or Kohls?

What exactly did the people expect when they bought a house out there?

As long as they’re consistent with it, and let developers know where they stand I have no problem with the city using restrictive zoning.
But this isn’t a historic, pedestrian neighborhood we’re talking about here.

Fletch June 19, 2012 at 11:33pm

I’ll say it again. When you move into a neighborhood, and especially when you build in a new neighborhood, take some personal responsibility to see what the zoning is. Then decide what would be the worst case scenario for such zoning, and if you can live with it, so be it. It’s not like Walmart has pulled a fast one. The zoning has been this way since before the first house was built. (Honestly, I’m also of the mindset that when you’re surrounded by car dealers, what’s the beef with a Walmart coming in?)

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