It also will consummate a dogged effort by Mayor Vincent C. Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) to persuade Wal-Mart to open at Skyland Town Center, a long-neglected Southeast shopping center that has been mired in land disputes. Most recently, Gray (D) personally called Bill Simon, president and chief executive of Wal-Mart U.S., to ask what the city could do to get the company to expedite a store at Skyland.
Besides Skyland, the other new site is in Fort Totten in Northeast, where a Wal-Mart will fill the first floor of an apartment development called Fort Totten Square.
Wal-Mart previously announced plans for stores at a former car dealership on Georgia Avenue NW in Ward 4; at East Capitol and 58th streets in Ward 7; at New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road NE in Ward 5; and as part of a new mixed-use development on New Jersey Avenue NW in Ward 6. It also laid out rapid expansion plans in the local suburbs, plotting stores in Tysons Corner, Rockville, Aspen Hill and Oxon Hill.
Wal-Mart’s plans to enter the District have inspired complaints and protests from labor unions and activists, who say that the chain does not pay adequate wages. Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo said the stores would create 1,800 jobs, offer fresh groceries in underserved areas and pay competitively. Both of the additional new stores will be about 120,000 square feet and will include pharmacies, bakeries and deli counters.
“What we’ve said all along is that our wages and benefits are as good, if not better, than the majority of businesses we would compete with that are currently doing business in D.C. — union or not union. So we feel really good abut the competitive nature of our offerings,” Restivo said.
The prospect of adding jobs and as much as $15 million in annual sales taxes from the six stores mitigates concerns from labor unions and grass-roots activists, city officials said, adding that wages would be competitive.
Victor Hoskins, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said he has met with representatives of labor unions and opposition groups.
“Our first goal is to get some jobs here. This is 1,800 jobs,” Hoskins said. “A lot of this is about getting people their first jobs.”
Local opponents of Wal-Mart said it was disappointing to see the chain advance its plans without agreeing to provide concessions to the city.
“The mayor had really given the impression that there would be a community benefits agreement before the four initial stores moved forward,” said Mackenzie Baris, lead organizer for DC Jobs With Justice, which has coordinated with unions to protest Wal-Mart’s expansion. “And now there are additional stores . . . I don’t know how the communities around the existing store sites wouldn’t feel betrayed.”