Kaid Benfield Archive


Can a Walmart anchor transit-oriented revitalization?

Kaid Benfield

Posted September 3, 2009 at 1:30PM

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  abandoned furniture store in Amity Gardens Shopping Center (courtesy of Bobby Brandon)  rear of abandoned Amity Gardens Shopping Center (courtesy of Bobby Brandon)

Can a Walmart anchor transit-oriented revitalization?  Charlotte city council member Nancy Carter seems to think so.  From News 14 Carolina's web site:

"Soon, the boarded-up store fronts and run-down parking lots that make up the mostly vacant Amity Gardens Shopping Center will be torn down to make room for a Walmart Supercenter . . .

"'I think we have a real opportunity for transit oriented development next door and farther out.  This will anchor all of those developments,' said Nancy Carter, of the Charlotte City Council."

  site of new Walmart (image via Google Earth, boundary by me)

On its face, this sounds preposterous.  I have given sprawl's number one poster child all sorts of grief for talking sustainability to the media while paving over one greenfield after another.  They deserve it, and I doubt that I'm ready to let up.

But this one is different.  This isn't expanding the suburban fringe onto farmland and lengthening driving distances.  This is revitalization of a decaying area of town, a brownfield that the retailer is cleaning up at its own expense.  The site is surrounded by existing development.

A largely automobile-dependent area, to be sure, and maybe "transit-oriented" is a bit of wishful thinking, at least for now.  But not necessarily over the long run. Walmart SuperCenter in Tulsa (by: Bill Kramme, creative commons license) Independence Boulevard is a major artery that can support more transit, especially with the sort of new development nearby that the council member hopes to see. 

Is the design likely to be mediocre at best, fronted by a large parking lot?  Would I rather see the site begin its revitalization with a showcase walkable, new urbanist, mixed-use development with local businesses?  Sure, on both counts.  But this location is just not ready for that.  First it needs some sort of economic activity that can help stop the bleeding.  This is a corridor that needs help and, even if it happens to be Walmart providing it, smart growth advocates should approve.