Walmart Vs. The Heights: About What You'd Expect (Plus Annise Parker Weighs In)
The Heights may soon be dealing with an unwanted resident, and they're going to have to put up a strong fight to keep them out. The possibility that Houston's seventh Super Walmart could land in the historic area has residents squirming, and a strong reaction for and against its development is spreading throughout the community.
Trouble in Quirkytown
The Facebook group, "Stop the Heights Wal-mart!" was formed after reports surfaced that Walmart is looking at a parcel of land south of I-10 near the intersection of Yale Street and Center Street, with plans for no less than the establishment of its next small country, it would seem.
The group was created to inform, gauge interest and foster discussion between independent individuals in the community, a group spokesperson said, with its sole objective to produce the result of not having the Walmart developed as proposed in the leaked site plan.
Why? Because the Heights is such a vibrant, creative community, known for its wide range of independently owned businesses, Heights resident Veronica Triplett told Hair Balls.
What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
"It's a place where I can walk to the store, get a fine cup of coffee not made by Starbucks, and find stores that carry everything from locally made crafts and clothing to quirky vintage furniture and recycled jewelry," Triplett said. "This is a part of Houston that doesn't have the feel of a suburban, generic, strip-mall wasteland. My fear is that if Walmart moved into this area it would pose major competition to all of these places I love so much and force them into extinction."
(Editor's note: The above quote is almost perfect in its Heightsocity -- the coffee "not made by Starbucks," the "locally made crafts," the actual use of the word "quirky" and the "suburban, generic, strip-mall wasteland" dis. Heights, we love you, but sometimes you need to take it down a notch. Back to the story...)
A development site plan obtained by the Houston Chronicle shows a 152,000-square-foot store, a parking lot for 664 cars and additional retail spaces for a bank, fast-food restaurant and other stores.
Walmart spokesman William Wertz told Hair Balls that Walmart is considering the expansion at this time but no plans have been approved.
"We can confirm that we are looking at this site, but discussions are preliminary, and we aren't ready to say any more at this time," Wetz said.
Mayor Annise Parker is also emphasizing that plans are tentative, in a statement to Hair Balls:
This is not yet a done deal. The property has been assembled for a major retail venture. When thatmoves forward, there will be careful review for impact on traffic, mobility and city infrastructure. I encourage Wal-Mart, or any other retailer interested in the property, to open dialogue with the Greater Heights and Washington Avenue Super Neighborhoods 15 and 22 as well as other neighborhood groups and civic clubs in that area.
An online petition sprang up as a result of the group's discussion of various tactics to engage the community. The petition was created to let Walmart and future developers know that a significant force of residents don't want anything to do with the corporate giant.
A large majority of the group is clear about their distaste for Walmart:
"I am firmly against the idea of a corporation known for its deplorable environmental record, ignoring the rights of workers, destroying towns and local economies, moving into the area," Triplett told Hair Balls.
Walmart, you are not welcome here. So you need not apply.
"NO WALMART!! Take your union busting, bad employment practices, and destruction of small businesses and shove it where the sun don't shine," Kat Kupelian said on the message board of "Stop the Heights Wal-mart!" Facebook page.
On the other side of the argument, there are some who assert that while it could change the unique landscape and affect some small businesses, the bigger picture is that
Walmart would bring much-needed jobs to the area.