With much fanfare and, it seemed, the expectation of much praise, Wal-Mart unveiled plans in April for an “urban” style supercenter in downtown Dallas. The 220,000-square-foot supercenter would be situated on Mockingbird Lane in a residential neighborhood near Love Field. Unlike the standard suburban Wal-Mart, this one would feature a Spanish-style façade, landscaped gardens, underground parking, and a door that opened onto the sidewalk.
But residents protested that a nice paint job and a few trees couldn’t make-up for the impacts of such a massive store. “You put red lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig,” said Ronnie Holman, head of a coalition of neighborhood organizations that fought the development.
The coalition argued that the store, far from being “smart growth,” was completely at odds with the small-scale nature of most urban retail. It would loom over the area and dwarf every building around it, Holman argued. It would lead to numerous small business failures and an estimated 11,000 to 18,000 additional vehicle trips each day.
In June, as several hundred residents packed city hall sporting red and green “No” stickers, the Dallas Plan Commission voted unanimously to reject Wal-Mart, calling it an “oversized guerrilla.”
Wal-Mart had invested heavily in trying to gain approval for the store, which it hoped would provide a model for building urban supercenters throughout the country. The company contracted a media consultant, conducted an extensive direct-mail campaign to sway public opinion, and employed a former City Council member to present the proposal to officials.
Wal-Mart has said it will appeal to the Dallas City Council, where it will need to muster twelve of fifteen votes to override the Plan Commission’s decision. The Council is not expected to take up the matter until late August.