It Don’t Come Easy for Wal-Mart in New Orleans

Apr 28, 2003

By George Anderson

The prospect of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in the heart of the city is creating the 21st century’s version of the battle of New Orleans.

Wal-Mart wants to put up a store near the city’s landmark garden district, former site of the St. Thomas public housing project.

The New York Times reports the plan has brought out opponents from all corners. “Lawsuits have been filed to block construction on behalf of the environment, the fabric of the city and the rights of the former residents of St. Thomas.”

Local businesses are concerned about losing customers to Wal-Mart and see the city willing to accommodate the retailer at their expense.

Barry Schlaile, an operator of a local lighting store, told the Times, “There are huge concessions being made to Wal-Mart, the richest company in the world, that are not being made to other businesses.” Mr. Schlaile, estimates that 45 out of 67 current local retailers will see business fall-off if the Wal-Mart store is built.

Another local opponent to the project, Neil Alexander said, “Nobody on the side against Wal-Mart is against jobs or against housing or against retail. What a lot of us are against is poor planning or no planning, and selling the city short to the largest corporation in the world.”

Historic Restoration Inc., the New Orleans-based developer of the project, invited Wal-Mart to anchor the redeveloped site that will include more than 1200 apartments including 182 public-housing units.

The developer, Maurice Pres Kabacoff, maintains that his firm and Wal-Mart remain committed to the project. “This is going to work. And it’s going to be a wonderful model for the country.”

Moderator’s Comment: Will Wal-Mart enjoy the same success
in urban America as it has in the rural and suburban areas?

Space is at a premium and Wal-Mart is encountering fights
whenever it attempts to enter city centers. It has been successful with stores
opening in Baltimore and Philly. The Dallas City Council just said no to Wal-Mart.
Anderson – Moderator

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