The developer threatening Sellwood and other nearby neighborhoods (and the city of Portland) with a Wal-Mart admittted at last night's neighborhood meeting that he has already signed a lease with the "Darth Vader" of corporate retailing.
He also admitted that since the property in question has been family-owned since 1918, he could indeed file a Measure 37 claim should the city rezone his lot to prevent WalMart from establishing a foothold on the southern edge of the city.
I was also surprised--shocked, actually-- to hear that Home Depot is considering locating a store at the corner of Holgate and Mcloughlin on the site of the Rose Manor Motel. That's only a mile or so from the Burnside Bridgehead project where community pressure persuaded developers to drop plans for a "big box" anchor to the PDC- sponsored redevelopment.
So what gives? Are we destined eventually to become a central city home for a mega-retailer like WalMart, Home Depot, or Lowe's? I hope not, for reasons both economic and environmental.
In yesterday's post, I dealt with some of the environmental impacts a car dependent retailer like WalMart would have on Portland. But in a post I wrote last December, I focused on the adverse economic impacts big corporate stores have on local businesses, and on the social and political infrastructures of the communities they move in to. Generally speaking, mega-retailers like WalMart suck money out of the coummunity. And because they achieve low prices through low wages and paltry benefits, they place a huge burden on the social-welfare services of local governments. Virtually everyone at last night's meeting seemed to be aware of those realities.
The piece I wrote in December, however, cited a Business Week article that concluded not all big box retailers are the same:
"Last April, Business Week published an article comparing the performance of Costco to its rival, the Wal-Mart warehouse subsidiary, Sam's Club. And guess what? Costco, with its higher wages, its generous benefits, and its partially unionized workforce, won, hands down, in every significant category of business efficiency."
Costco, the article concluded, can help both employees and consumers alike.
But that said, I don't think even Costco, with its relatively progressive employment policies, should be allowed to open stores within the city. Like WalMart and other big box retailers, Costco is a car dependent operation. And although it features bulk purchasing rather than the individual items consumers can buy at local and smaller outlets, it still poses a threat to locally owned businesses. It is, after all, a kind of one stop shopping center for everything from books to pork chops.
Like WalMart, it's not a good fit for a city that prides itself for livable, pedestrian friendly, neighborhoods.