Saturday, July 31, 2010

SN 22 and the Walmart People

SN 22 president Jane Cahill West and VP Tom Dornbusch met with Walmart Reps this past Friday. Here's the report from Jane and Tom:

Memo To:​CM Edward Gonzalez (and staff); SN 22 Council Members and Community
From:​Jane West and Tom Dornbusch​
Date:​July 31, 2010
RE:​Initial meeting between SN22 Council and Regional Representatives of Walmart held on July 30, 2010, from 7:30-8:30 a.m.

Meeting participants:​
SN22 Council:​ ​ Walmart:
​President – Jane West ​Kellie Duhr — Public Affairs and Governmental Relations
​VP – Tom Dornbusch​​Jerry Peacock — Regional Manager
​Christina Cabral—Neighborhood Markets District Manager

Meeting Summary:
West and Dornbusch opened the meeting by summarizing the history of civic activity in the area, the urbanization and densification of the Washington Avenue Corridor as evidenced by recent residential and commercial construction and the emergence of a growing “entertainment district.” They also described the community vision for future development as evidenced by SN 22's past and present planning efforts including SN 22's Proposed Master Plan for Transportation.

Walmart representatives stated that the proposed store will include a complete grocery that will offer organic produce and products. They stated that the proposed store will not include a gas station and/or a tire/lube shop, and that the site plan leaked to the media did not correctly convey Walmart’s concept for the site because that concept has not yet been fully developed. They explained that Walmart’s concept could not be developed before the property was under contract. They acknowledged that Walmart has contracted to purchase the property from Ainbinder Company.

Discussion focused on the site plan and form of the proposed development.

West and Dornbusch expressed hope that the project would be planned with sensitivity to the urban context and the White Oak Bayou watershed. They conveyed preferences for pedestrian access from streets and sidewalks instead of from a large surface parking lot, for structured instead of surface parking, and for use of low impact development techniques aimed at mitigating threats to area neighborhoods posed by stormwater runoff (e.g. permeable paving, detention, and filtration). West shared a site plan prepared by former CM Peter Brown that extends the existing local street grid into the site to create both a neighborhood-accessible, pedestrian-friendly approach to the proposed Walmart, and opportunities for outlying stores to face sidewalks instead of parking lots.

Walmart representatives acknowledged the need for context- sensitive plans that would address, inter alia, expected changes in traffic patterns and stormwater runoff. Duhr explained that Walmart is an evolving company that is committed to environmental sustainability through use of design features such as outdoor lighting intended to reduce light pollution, and natural lighting for the store’s interior. She also explained that Walmart has in-store recycling and has “greened” their retail model by requiring suppliers to reduce their use of packaging materials.

Walmart representatives requested a copy of Mr. Brown’s site plan to pass on to their architectural team, which West agreed to provide to them electronically.

All participants acknowledged that Walmart’s proposal to locate a store on the Yale Street site presents an opportunity for Walmart to introduce a new urban prototype that reinforces and advances Walmart’s stated commitment to environmental sustainability. All participants also acknowledged that some of the site-related decisions will be determined by the developer, i.e., Ainbinder Company, because Walmart is only contracting to purchase a portion of the site. All participants agreed that future discussions of site-related issues should include Ainbinder Company.

Next Steps:
All the participants recognized that many other community residents would like to meet with Walmart representatives to discuss the plans for the proposed Yale Street store.

West and Dornbusch suggested that Walmart representatives consider agreeing to participate in a public meeting at which community members could be invited to make suggestions for how the proposed Walmart could be designed to benefit area residents and mitigate their concerns about the proposed store. West and Dornbusch explained that such a meeting could be moderated by a facilitator who could record community suggestions on flip charts so that Walmart representatives could subsequently share the community’s suggestions and concerns with their design team. They suggested that once Walmart finalizes development plans for the site, Walmart could present those plans to the community at a second public meeting. The first such meeting could be held as soon as August 9, 2010, in lieu of SN 22's next regularly scheduled meeting.

Walmart representatives stated that they are committed not only to meeting with the community, but also to working cooperatively and collaboratively with the community on this project as it moves forward. They also agreed that a public meeting such as that described above could be beneficial, but expressed concern that due to prior commitments August 9th might not be a convenient date.

All the participants expressed appreciation for the meeting, and agreed to stay in touch and to work with CM Gonzalez and his staff towards selecting a date, time, and place for a public meeting that will be convenient for as many participants as possible.
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\Summary of 7-30-2010 meeting between SN 22 and Walmart​


  1. The products that Wal-Mart says are organic do not undergo the rigorous procedures that other organic products do. A lot of chemicals and suspect foods/products from China get into the Wal-Mart organics.

  2. WOW ... looks like Whole Foods has labor issues, too. Check out this link:

  3. It would be great if these notes from the SN22 meeting could be posted on the Stop the Heights Walmart FB page, too. Have you forwarded them?

  4. I have a feeling that the Stop The Heights Walmart FB Page is aware of this post ...

  5. Please note that the above "memorandum" is outrageous propaganda written by Wal-Mart's PR department.

    Wal-Mart costs communities money by running other businesses out through unfair competition, destroying better paying jobs, which often have benefits. Wal-Mart adds stress to community services, especially hospital emergency rooms - their workers have no health insurance so that's where they have to go. The City of Houston is talking about SUBSIDIZING this and other Wal-Mart locations in Houston through tax breaks and other incentives. Tell City Council that you as a Houston taxpayer have no interest whatsoever in paying for this outrageous act of corporate welfare - paying to bring in businesses that will ultimately cost the community money. City Council works for the citizens of Houston, not for developers and especially not for a predatory corporation that is headquartered in Arkansas.

  6. @Anonymous,
    Thanks for the comments. Its really not propoganda at all. Jane Cahill West is the President of SN22, and has worked for years to ensure a responsible development in the area. She is not a member of government, but a civic leader that has historically opposed developments such as this. Her notes, I felt, were very informative, and neutral, given the circumstances. They are meant to inform the community of the meeting, and nothing more.

    I appreciate, and agree with most everything else you're stating in your post. Thanks for reading.

  7. Walmart doesn't have good prices anymore. 6 dollars for watermelon 6 dollars for a gallon of milk. 3 dollars for a carton of eggs. I called a manager out and demanded he explain it to me. He replied they are cheaper that Kroger's. Oh ya
    So I drove there. One dollar thirty eight cents
    for the same carton of eggs. 2.95 a gallon for name brand milk. Three dollars for a watermelon.
    Went I asked a Kroger manager about those prices. he answered sorry we don;t have any specials on those items right now. The jokes not on me Walmart.