Plan to build new Wal-Mart met with resistance

A Wal-Mart is being planned for a site in the Heights area

July 15, 2010 4:23:18 PM PDT
Plans are in the works to build a new Wal-Mart in The Heights, but not everyone is happy about it. The store would go in at Interstate 10 near Yale and would also include other retail shops. But since the plans were announced, there has been a growing concern about what the new store and construction will mean for the neighborhood.

There is growing opposition from the neighbors who live around the proposed Wal-Mart site. Many said they can't get information from people involved, but Eyewitness News has learned the city of Houston is negotiating with the developer to give them financial incentive to put something on that land.

"There's a big 'for sale' sign over here," said Nick Urbano.

Urbano likes walking the dogs in his neighborhood and worries that his lifestyle and property value will both take a nosedive if Wal-Mart moves in next door.

"It's kind of that uncertainty, and looking for some kind of transparency as far as what's gonna be in here, how it's going to affect us, and how it's going to affect tax revenue," he said.

The proposed Wal-Mart would be located on a parcel of land bordering Yale and just north of the bustling Washington corridor. We went to the developer's office, but no one at Ainbinder would talk to us.

"Since the developer's plan is to sell 15 acres to Wal-Mart, the developer has very little say in what will be developed there," Neighborhood Activist Jane West said.

A Wal-Mart spokesperson would not go on camera, but he tells me, this location, or any location to serve its customers but points out so far no contract has been signed.

"I don't think it's a bad idea, other than traffic concerns," said Denise Trahan, a Wal-Mart customer.

And the city of Houston seems open to the Wal-Mart idea. Eyewitness News has learned the city is negotiating with the developer to give them tax incentive if they improve the infrastructure surrounding the property.

But nearby small businesses wonder if Wal-Mart will make the same effort to be a good neighbor.

"We are a small business," said one small business owner with whom we spoke. "We employ people who live here around this. We care about the neighborhood. We give back to the neighborhood."

While no deal is done, homeowners like Urbano are not waiting. His online Facebook page against The Heights Wal-Mart now has more than 2,000 members.

"This is our life savings. This is our life's work," Urbano said. "It's something that we're proud of, and we want to protect it."

The city says it is still in negotiations with the developer about what kind of tax incentive package it will get for building out the property, something that's likely to happen whether or not a Wal-Mart is eventually built on the site.

In a statement, a Wal-Mart representative wrote:

"We are always looking and evaluating locations to best serve our customer. We are pursuing bringing a store to our customers at this site. We believe Wal-Mart would help bring customers low prices on the product and services they need and want. Customers living in that part of the city want more affordable options for grocery and we want to be part of the solution.

"New stores typically generate 200-300 jobs and include positions in store management, pharmacy, human resources, customer service, cashiers and sales associates. They also offer competitive pay, quality benefits and a real opportunity to build a career. More than 70 percent of our store management team started as hourly associates and benefits include affordable health plans, profit sharing and 401(k) contributions, a stock purchase plan and a discount on store merchandise."


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