Of the four sites in the District where Wal-Mart announced that it
would like to open its first stores in the city, the one on Georgia Avenue has generated more controversy than the other three combined.
Opponents of the store have held rallies, gathered petition signatures, put up yard signs, made T-shirts, written letters to elected officials and filed a request for part of the site to be declared historic.
Which is why some Wal-Mart watchers were surprised to learn that the chain has signed its first lease in the city for the Georgia Avenue store, where it plans to open in a former Chevrolet dealership at the corner of Georgia and Missouri avenues in Northwest.
Local opposition to Wal-Mart, generally led by organized labor and anti-poverty advocates, has centered around the Georgia Avenue store for good reason. Of the four sites it is the only one in the midst of a deeply rooted residential neighborhood. The location is also adjacent to many small businesses — prompting concerns that some local shops could suffer — and it is at an intersection that is already wracked by traffic.
But as a development, the Ward 4 store is easiest. There is no public land involved and no apartments or other stores being built above or below it. It’s really just a Wal-Mart.
Where is the city government on all this? District officials and Wal-Mart representatives have been discussing a “community benefits agreement,” but no announcement has been made.
“We haven’t heard anything from the mayor about how the negotiations are going,” said Mackenzie Baris, lead organizer for DC Jobs With Justice.
She said with the Georgia Avenue lease in place, she was done waiting and had begun asking members of the D.C. Council to hold hearings on legislation that would make the chain’s entrance into the city much more difficult.
“The mayor is clearly not moving quickly enough to make sure that community benefits are in place before these stores are finalized,” she said.