Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Why The Walmart On My Street Is Going to Suck

I was initially going to call this entry, 'Why we are right', but figured the title I chose was probably a bit more noticeable.

So nearly a year ago, Ainbinder not only announced that they were intending to make tens of millions of dollars by selling land to a Walmart on my street, and taking 6 million in public money to do it (See all things '380' related), but that Walmart was also beginning to build a new Supercenter on I-10 and Silber. That's about 3.5 miles away.

So, the Supercenter at I-10 and Silber got built, against resident's wishes. 

And as expected, its already bringing problems ...

Many of the neighborhood’s 250 residents were concerned that traffic coming off I-10 would use their side streets as a driveway for the new Walmart, which opened within the past few weeks. Rather than install gates in the neighborhood, which the city’s legal department said would be a liability of emergency vehicles couldn’t get though, city officials decided to build a median that would make it impossible for northbound drivers to turn left into Afton Village.
But landlord and business owner Dan Riley said his 70 tenants are having a very tough time getting to their apartments. “(Walmart) is bringing economic development to the east side of Silber, (but) they've basically said we don't want the west side of Silber developed," Riley said. At least a half dozen other business on the west side of Silber have also complained of slumping sales since the median was installed. Drivers heading north are now forced to drive a half-mile before they can make a U-turn to head south. "I've been late to church the past two Sundays,” said Beverly Humphrey, who fears her favorite convenience store will close due to the median. “There's only one way in and out."A Walmart spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment on Sunday.

Houston CM Brenda Stardig basically summed up the city's involvement in this one ...

"This is the least restrictive (solution),” Councilmember Brenda Stardig said at a recent meeting. “And it's still not to the (neighborhood’s) satisfaction but this is what we've got."

Its very fair to note that CM Stardig voted in favor of giving the development on my street the 380. So, when a public official is throwing their hands up to say 'this is the best we've got' to the public's frustration with a company, while on the other hand, voting to give tax money to benefit that same company, then not only are they a pretty weak politician, but its also fair to question whether they've got the public's best interests in mind.

And even beyond this, it demonstrates clearly that unless you get a group like RUDH and StopHeightsWalmart going and causing a noticeable ruckus, then no one is going to care what the individuals or even the neighborhoods say. A good piece of advice from a local politician that I once received was:

'Sometimes you have to drop bombs first, then ask questions later.'

In this case, because they did not have a chance to drop bombs, a massive Walmart development is now costing neighborhood residents in quality of life, and costing local businesses their livelihood.

"... but this is what we've got."

I'm sorry that the I-10 and Silber folks are having a rough go. I do not envy their position, and I know the Civic volunteers are trying hard to preserve their neighborhood.

In our neighborhood, we're going to have to continue to demand better until the folks involved with this thing quit being pompous and ignorant.

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