Strong protest from dozens of Asian small business owners has led Wal-Mart to drop plans for a giant supercenter in west Denver.
Wal-Mart had been working with the Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA) to condemn and bulldoze Alameda Square, a shopping center housing some 25 Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian and Chinese businesses, including the city’s largest Asian grocery store. This spring, DURA declared the center “blighted,” the first step in evicting the businesses and clearing the way for Wal-Mart. DURA also planned to provide Wal-Mart with $10 million in tax subsidies.
Alameda Square’s small businesses, which have turned this once derelict shopping strip into a thriving community center, mobilized after learning of the plan in February. They hung signs in storefront windows urging residents to contact the city, circulated a petition that gathered more than 1,2000 signatures, and generated hundreds of letters to city officials and local newspapers.
“The message the city sends to them and to all small business owners in economically depressed areas is this: Don’t risk your blood, sweat and tears on trying to turn around a struggling area, because once you make it a success, we will replace you with a national chain,” wrote Douglas Hsiao.
Wal-Mart backed out in late June. City officials are now in talks with property owner Khanh Vu, who wants to upgrade the buildings while maintaining the center’s existing merchants.