Having saturated rural and suburban markets, big box retailers are making an aggressive push into central cities. In many communities, however, they are facing strong neighborhood opposition.
Last year, Home Depot, which has 1,100 outlets worldwide, announced its intention to open a store in the Hollywood neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. The corporation proposed a 4-block, multistory building that would combine a 100,000 square foot store with offices, apartments, small shops, and two levels of above-ground parking. Home Depot touted the design as New Urbanist and hoped the store would serve as a national model for expanding into other cities.
But Hollywood residents were determined to keep the company out. Local resident Bud Breithaupt organized a petition drive last fall that has since gathered more than 3,000 signatures against the project. Hundreds of residents turned out for neighborhood meetings, sent letters to the editor, and contacted their elected officials.
One major concern was Home Depot’s impact on the community’s local businesses, especially two long-standing retailers, A-Boy Plumbing & Electrical Supply and Keith Brown Building Materials. “Home Depot does not enhance business and economic vitality,” contends Breithaupt. “Home Depot would destroy Hollywood’s existing businesses . . . [and encourage] other large chains to invade and homogenize our neighborhood.”
Traffic was another major issue. The Hollywood neighborhood is already highly congested. Home Depot claimed its mixed use, urban-style development would enhance pedestrian and transit use in the area. Opponents countered that the store would bring in scores of people from other neighborhoods who were unlikely to haul building supplies home on the bus.
So strong was the opposition that Home Depot mailed glossy brochures to area households and employed a full-time public relations specialist to work in the neighborhood.
But it appears that Home Depot has lost the battle, at least for now. In April, the company put the project on hold. Neighborhood activists have vowed to remain organized and active in case the corporation once again sets its sights on Hollywood.