The bill — backed by organized labor and other advocates for workers — would affect stores already operating in the city, including Home Depot, Macy’s and Costco, which would be required to comply within four years. But the legislation, known as the Large Retailer Accountability Act, is generally seen as aimed at Wal-Mart, which plans to open six D.C. stores in the coming years.
In public statements, Wal-Mart has declined to say how the legislation would affect its plans, other than to warn that it would have “negative consequences.” Several city officials who have been briefed by company representatives say the retailer has not threatened to cancel stores.
But real estate executives familiar with Wal-Mart’s plans say that if the measure becomes law, the company would shelve plans for the three stores not under construction. That would include one at Skyland Town Center, a project near to the mayor’s heart and his home in Southeast Washington.
The council’s vote puts Gray (D) under considerable pressure because he has made economic development of underserved areas — particularly in the eastern half of the city — a priority. But vetoing a bill that would give a leg up to low-income workers could be uncomfortable for Gray, who might seek reelection next year.
Gray said Friday that he had not decided whether to veto the legislation, as Wal-Mart called on him to do last week. But he acknowledged that the Skyland project — at the intersection of Good Hope Road, Naylor Road and Alabama Avenue SE — and two others will influence his thinking.
“It certainly is a factor,” he said. “There’s no question about that.”
Gray pressed Wal-Mart representatives at a Las Vegas retail conference two years ago to open a store at Skyland and then personally called Bill Simon, president and chief executive of Wal-Mart U.S., to ask that a store be expedited there.
Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, complied. The company signed a commitment with McLean-based Rappaport Cos. to serve as the top retailer in Skyland Town Center, a mixed-use project with a town square and 476 apartments. Skyland, which could break ground next year, would be the largest project built in a D.C. neighborhood east of the Anacostia River, and the city has put up $40 million in subsidies and spent $28 million on other expenses to advance it.
In an e-mail, Henry Fonvielle, president of Rappaport, did not say Wal-Mart would pull out of Skyland, but he did say there “is no doubt that the [bill] will make it more difficult for developers” to attract large retailers.