Yes, I’m one of those snobs who hates Wal-Mart, so I’m not thrilled with the idea of one coming to DC (and yes, I get that it’s pretty hypocritical of me to cheer when the Target opened in Columbia Heights, but boo when Wal-Mart starts looking to open a store in DC–I know they’re both bad for local businesses, but at least Target isn’t quite the evil corporation that Wal-Mart is)
But what’s really interesting is the locations mentioned in the article–Wal-Mart is looking to put a store on New York Avenue NE, and had previously looked at Poplar Point in SE. Poplar Point is a proposed development along the Anacostia River in SE, in a less-then-stellar area. New York Ave. NE is not exactly the best area either. It’s a lot of old warehouses, strip clubs, and sketchy car shops, and some rough residential neighborhoods like Ivy City that got largely passed over in the boom years. It’s also not metro accessible.
Contrast that with the location of the Columbia Heights Target. Sure, up until the past 5 years or so, Columbia Heights wasn’t a great neighborhood. But it was still fairly close to “better” parts of NW, and the metro station (which opened in 2000, I think) was in place before the Target. So Target chose to go in to an up-and-coming neighborhood in NW, right above a metro station. Wal-Mart is looking at a non-metro accessible location in an area that has a long way to go before it’ll be “up-and-coming”.
Also, Target went in to a complex that also includes a number of other larger stores, while it sounds like the Wal-Mart location will just be a Wal-Mart. It’s interesting that the article says that the NY Ave. NE location is ideal because “Wal-Mart could build the sort of large store and surface parking lot to which it is accustomed.” Interesting because the design for the Columbia Heights Target is decidedly urban–the store is divided up on the second and third floors of a large retail complex, with underground parking (which I understand is usually mostly empty, because of the metro station downstairs!). So Target is able (willing?) to work their store into the constraints of a central, urban, public-transit-focused location. While Wal-Mart just puts it’s store in a location that will fit how they do things, with little concern for what would be best for the city.