The District originally owned the Brentwood property, at one point using it as a lot for impounded cars. But it sold the property to developers in 2001. Still, city leaders repeatedly met with retailers to encourage development on the site.
Kmart planned to move into the 23-acre site, but that project failed when the retailer filed for Chapter 11 protection from its creditors in 2002. But because of Kmart's efforts, the site is already zoned for retail and is physically prepared for construction, which would have made it possible for Wal-Mart to move quickly.
Still, the proposed site, near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro stop, would have been an unusual one for Wal-Mart.
A relatively small space, it already contains a Giant Food and Home Depot, and Wal-Mart would have been forced to squeeze into a 100,000-square-foot space. The chain typically builds stores with about 130,000 square feet. What's more, the parcel of land is raised, making it difficult to expand parking, which was limited.
"The site was tight to begin with," said a developer who worked on the deal. "Wal-Mart always wanted a bigger store."
The decision to jettison plans for the Brentwood site heads off a growing confrontation between Wal-Mart and several neighborhood groups, activist organizations, and unions trying to block or slow the deal.
The groups range in size from a two-week-old neighborhood organization of 15 residents calling itself DC Citizens for Responsible Growth to the 150,000-member Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO, which represents 180 local unions.
In letters to council members and the mayor, activist and resident organizations have demanded negotiations be halted until city leaders hold public hearings on the potential impact of a Wal-Mart store in the city.
"I am thrilled," said Heather Phipps, one the founders of DC Citizens for Responsible Growth. "Whether it was a small parking lot or activists that made this happen, I am glad we no longer have to fight off Wal-Mart."