In Far North Dallas, Neighbors Are Rallying to Stop a Walmart Planned for Arapaho and Coit

Categories: Biz, Neighborhoods

Walmartstorefront.jpg
Walmart
When I was growing up a few blocks away from the Spanish Village shopping center in Far North Dallas it was, if never booming, at least heavily trafficked. It was the site of Chuck's Hamburgers, where we'd walk for lunch when my junior high got out early for end-of-semester exams. Border's was there, too, where I whiled away some dull summer hours and bought handful of criminally overpriced CDs in the days before I discovered the ease of online music piracy. My family frequented a decent but unfortunately named hole-in-the-wall Tex-Mex place there, Mexi-Go, where we were once shocked to see local celebrity/WFAA weatherman Troy Dungan eating sans bow tie (he was, in fact, wearing a brightly-colored nylon track suit).

There are a few small businesses holding on at the northwest corner of Coit and Arapaho, notably Durango, the quirky desert Southwest-themed furniture store where a friend's mom started working after going through a divorce, and a couple of others, but it's mostly depopulated, a retail ghost town that has withered as commerce at the Coit-Campbell intersection just to the north has boomed.

But that's all in the past. George and Andrea Underwood, who own the property, are now looking to the future. And that future, as the Advocate noted yesterday, is Walmart.

The retail giant has its eye on the Spanish Village complex as the site for a new store. The chain hasn't said much publicly about the project. Its PR contact has promised to provide more information by the end of the day. But according to neighbors who have seen the proposal, the plan is for one of Walmart's new, scaled-down supercenters that take up 90,000 square feet, or half as much the typical big box.

The reduced scale isn't assuaging the concerns of neighbors, who haven't exactly thrilled to the idea of having a Walmart of any size move in next door. Matter of fact, they've launched a petition, at 1,100 signatures and counting, pledging a boycott if the store gets built. There's also, of course, a Facebook group.

Their worries are about what you'd expect: Traffic will be a mess; the store will kill off surrounding small businesses; crime will increase. "You don't want this in your backyard," said Adam Kanneman, who lives on the other side of Coit from the location, in Richardson, and opposes the store. "That's the reason you move here, because it's nice and quiet." No one wants or expects a big box to go in next door, he says.

Of course, Walmart is well practiced at handling neighborhood opposition, sometimes working with neighbors, sometimes around them to get stores built. Look at the Neighborhood Market on Lower Greenville. If you can successfully build a store literally across the street from Avi Adelman, you can build one anywhere.

We'll update when we hear back from the store.


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37 comments
jordanminn
jordanminn

Eric, oh great investigative reporter, where is the money coming from for all of the anti-Walmart signs polluting my neighborhood and who initiated the protest?  Can you say unions?  Be a real journalist and dig to the bottom of this supposed "grassroots campaign".

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

I'll be kind of sad to see Durango go. When we first moved to the Dallas area a decade ago, we lived right off of Arapho and Waterview and would often go to Durango to look at the funky furniture that they peddle there. We have a really beautiful armoire built out of repurposed antique wood stock that we purchased there that serves as our entertainment center.

Yes, it was waaaaay overpriced.

todd
todd

I drive past this intersection during my morning commute.  It's between two school zones, so traffic can be a hassle.  I cannot imagine how much of a beating Wal-Mart traffic would add to the mix.

bealotcoolerifyoudid
bealotcoolerifyoudid

This quote is so awesome, Eric you win the internet this week.

"If you can successfully build a store literally across the street from Avi Adelman, you can build one anywhere." 

bigdan312
bigdan312

I lived near Preston and Park in Plano when the Wal-Mart (and Target) on that corner closed down. Now everybody loves driving through that area because it's so totally not crowded or filled with traffic anymore.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

What kind of street can support a Walmart with nno modification (no mention of new construction) yet someone next to it claims it is nice and quiet? Something does not make sense. It sounds like a big open lot next to a high capacity road. What did they expect to go there, a Neiman Marcus or a Tiffany's?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Seems like people would rather have 5 Pawn shops, 4 Payday loan shops, a condom sense and a tote the note before they'd want a Wal Mart

Americano
Americano

It's their neighborhood, they have a right to fight it.  But if the owner can get it zoned and sold, they have that right as well.  Just don't shop there if you don't like it.  (Aye, there's the rub)

_mm_
_mm_

I honestly don't understand why many people would prefer a crumbling, vacant shopping center to a brand new Wal-Mart.  I know it's hip to bash Wal-Mart, and there are legitimate concerns over their procurement and HR practices, but seriously?  You'd rather have a deserted corner?


MattL11
MattL11

How dare these people challenge the mighty Wal Mart?! This is America, goddammit. What Wal Mart wants, Wal Mart gets. Period. 

Chuck_Schick
Chuck_Schick

If you want an example of what this "smaller" supercenter concept is like, visit the new Walmart in NW Dallas at Webb Chapel and NW Highway.

adkann
adkann

Thanks Eric! Help us stop this thing. - Adam Kanneman

adkann
adkann

Thanks Eric! Help us stop this thing.

RDavids1
RDavids1

haha Eric. That's near my hood too. Did you go to Pearce (Mohawk Elem?) or Richardson? Didn't know you were from up yonder. Chuck's, Mexi-Go, CD Warehouse was before the big ol' fancy Borders came in.

Vndallas
Vndallas

Is this really that far from the Walmart Supercenter at Arapaho and Montfort?

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@_mm_ I might rather ride out the economic cycle than throw my chips in to this for 10-15 years.  5 years, maybe

adkann
adkann

The shopping center is not deserted. It is home to several small "mom and pop" shops as well as the Allegro School of Music, Durangos, Driving School, others

mewkins
mewkins

Isn't that a Sam's? Or is it both? It's a dadgum shame what Wal-Mart did there. Forced whirlyball up to Plano and made that corner look all clean and nice.

anon
anon

@adkann

Adam, you might not be able to stop it from going in. That being said, all might not be lost. If Walmart needs city approval or participation (tax abatements, sales tax rebates, rezoning, etc) then you should think about the neighborhood's needs. 

Go visit your city council representative. Talk about how Walmart, after twenty years or so in a location, frequently moves a store two miles away, leaving yet another ghost box. Not only that, but they then engage in zoning by corporate fiat by encumbering a property with restrictive covenants that say things like the parcel cannot be used for some period of time (frequently twenty or twenty-five years, sometimes forever) as a grocery store, or a pharmacy, or a gas station, etc. Walmart and Target both do this, and they do it without input from the city, even if that kind of reuse is the absolute best fit for that piece of ground. Insist that as part of the deal, that no restrictive covenants can be placed on the property when it is eventually resold.

You might also consider, if Walmart asks for any kind of help from the city as listed above, what happens to the ghost box when Walmart vacates it in twenty years. Does Walmart get to leave it to rot as long as they like? Or, as many cities have done around the country, does the city insist that if the property is vacant for a year or two, then the ground must be returned to a greenfield, ready for new construction? The neighborhood would be better off with a piece of ground that only has to be mowed occasionally, rather than an empty big box that is slowly disassembled by copper thieves and may be accidentally burned down by homeless looking for a place to sleep and keep warm. 

If the property is part of a Planned Development (a specialized zoning tool) then it must have detail plan approval. This is your opportunity to try to make sure it fits the neighborhood both architecturally and aesthetically. Do you want a cookie cutter building that is essentially identical to a hundred others built by Walmart, or do you want a structure that is more a reflection of your area? This kind of tool gives you, the neighbors, more input and more opportunities to insert requirements that protect and promote the neighborhood.

Again, you might not be able to stop them. But you might be able to negotiate a better deal than you think. Do your research on Walmart. Look at the tools being developed around the country by other cities also working on the land use problems Walmart creates. Build in, on the front end, how the deal will work on the back end. You have to do this up front. It is a lot harder to do later.

NewsDog
NewsDog

@Vndallas Or the Wal-Mart neighborhood store already on Coit between Beltline and Arapahoe? What will they do with that box?

MaxNoDifference
MaxNoDifference

@Vndallas Or the WalMart Neighborhood Market a half mile south on Coit (although WalMart has done this in the past (Midway & LBJ-one north of LBJ and the other south of LBJ)).

    I personally believe that it will be good for the area.

Chuck_Schick
Chuck_Schick

@mewkins Sam's opened last year on the west side of Webb Chapel. Walmart came in this year on the east side. We did lose the greatness of Al's Pizzeria, however.

WalMartRocks
WalMartRocks

@anon @adkann how about one more "ghost box" reference for good measure??

mewkins
mewkins

Supposedly that whole SW corner of midway & LBJ is going to become a Wal-Mart something or other. Word is that everything is going except Midway Point and the new In-Out Burgers (the old Co-Co's). Maybe even the apartments next to the old Drug Emporium. I guess they're thinking that the massiveness of the expanded LBJ will funnel enough people to the Wal-Marts on both sides .

mewkins
mewkins

Oh dang. Didn't know about the east side. I guess they thought the Target on Marsh and NW Hwy was making so much money let's get us some.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@anon

odd, can't find anything in your "original post" regarding uses that don't pay taxes...regardless, the vast majority of vacated large format retail buildings have been retenanted with for profit enterprises that pay taxes.

Walmarts do not "adversely impact crime stats". If the area has crime, so too will the Walmart. If the area does not have high levels of crime, the Walmart is not going to add a criminal element that wasn't there before.

As the property is an existing retail development, and the proposed Walmart is not adding any increased building density, it fits in the current zoning and also conforms with how the property was planned vis a vis land use. There is no "zoning case", the property is allowed by right for retail use.

Food Lions were put in secondary locations, inferior sites/not at hard corners at major intersections, and are only around 30K sq ft in size. They are not good comparisons at all.

Most deed restrictions placed on vacated property have been held to be unenforceable due to restraint of trade/anti-competitive regs. Most retailers have stopped this practice. Just look at Preston/Park in Plano where a vacated Walmart was redeveloped for a Market Street grocery.

Your assertion on the corporation sitting on vacant property is ludicous. The property is an asset to the corp, they want to turn that asset into capital, not let it deteriorate and lose value.

anon
anon

Read that again. I said it is very difficult to repurpose these so that they return property and sales taxes to a city. A church, school, library, hospital, and any other governmental or non-profit use does not pay property taxes, and likely collects no sales taxes either.

If you take the time to read my original post I carefully explain, twice, that they might be stuck with a Walmart (which do adversely impact crime stats and generate tons of traffic congestion - both legitimate land use questions in a zoning case) and if it is going in, then shrewdly negotiate everything possible on the front end to minimize the impact on the back end. 

Food Lions across the region are now schools, churches, and libraries. These return no revenues to cities, or any other taxing authority. These uses are beneficial, and do occupy what would otherwise be vacant space, but the fact that these huge buildings are repurposed as institutional uses is an indication that they are not as easy for new retail or commercial tenants to make use of.

Walmart is one of the largest property owners across the country, with extensive listings of vacant, empty big boxes. One of the reasons their vacant buildings stay that way is because of the restrictive covenants they place on property. While that may be a good business decision, it can cause that very same building to stand empty, sometimes for a decade or longer, since the best reuse is not allowed by corporate, not city, policy. That situation is not created by the city, but by the business, and it imposes real costs on nearby property owners. Again, this is a legitimate land use question when looking at a zoning case.

Want to know why that old Target, Kmart, or Walmart is not redeveloping as the grocery store or department store or pharmacy everyone in the neighborhood says they want? Go visit your commercial real estate broker or the county and find out what conditions have been put on the property by Target, Kmart, or Walmart. 

When a corporation creates a problem like this for a city, it is appropriate for the city to respond with policies that place the true cost of ownership of that property back on the corporation. A city should not have to spend money on police calls at a vacant commercial property like this when the issue that keeps it vacant is partially or entirely self-imposed by the corporation. Over time the property devalues, not only itself, but its neighbors as well. An adjacent property owner should not be penalized in this way, hence the suggestion that as part of the deal, if the property sits vacant for a predetermined period of time, then it be demolished and the property restored to a greenfield state, as it is often less expensive to build new than to rehab a 100,000 to 250,000 square foot commercial structure after it has been picked clean by scavengers. Again, this is a legitimate land use question, appropriate for consideration in a zoning case.

Folks talk about the social impact of Walmart's corporate strategies, but those are immaterial in a zoning case. The issue in a zoning case is land use. What is the highest and best use of a particular piece of property, both immediately and into the future? When a council makes a zoning decision, it is for the long term, possibly just a few years, but more likely continuing on for decades. Oftentimes it is actually a better outcome to wait, to let a property sit vacant, than to let a wrong use go in. A wrong use can be even worse, and once it is in, the neighborhood is stuck with the decision for a very long time. 

Is a Walmart product the best use at that location? It might very well be. If that is the case, then the neighbors need to protect themselves, as best as they can, against the legitimate traffic congestion, shoplifting, vehicle break-ins, and panhandling that often happens at Walmart, and their corporate strategies like restrictive covenants, that often create scenarios where a property is either very difficult, or impossible to redevelop back up to its highest and best use.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@anon 

wrong. flat out wrong.

large single tenant retail boxes have been repurposed at a very rapid rate. there are few former Walmarts in DFW that has not been retenanted and/or redeveloped.

the vacated boxes left by relocated Walmart, Target, closed Circuit City, Borders etc have been absorbed. The majority of shut down Albertsons have been retenanted.

it is relatively easy to move these unoccupied facilities thst are in desireable locations, other retailers have moved in, schools, churchs and medical uses have all been put into these buildings.

there is no rational reason to oppose this WalMart. This is an existing retail project, the use is consistent with what the property has always been.

anon
anon

@WalMartRocks 

Ghost box. Empty big box. Rotting shell. Call them whatever you want, the result is the same. These structures tend to become a blight on whatever community they are in after they go dark. And they are very, very difficult to repurpose, especially in ways that continue to return property and sales taxes to whatever municipality they inhabit. 

mewkins
mewkins

"ghost box" is the best kind of box. Just ask Dr. Ray Stantz.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

the apartments will be gone, as well as the existing Neighborhood Market building. the rest of the retail stays, a new WalMart Supercenter and a Sams Club will be built where the apartments are now. The WalMart on the NWC will close/relocate.

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