Isn’t Walmart at Suburban Plaza a done deal?

It is not a done deal. We believe it to be a scare tactic and a misconception that Walmart and the owner of the property, Selig Enterprises, have masterfully spread so that people would believe it and be resigned to it. This misconception has been spread since word of the proposed Walmart first came to the attention of our communities, and continues to be spread by our county commissioners, based on the fact that antiquated DeKalb County zoning laws allow for this type of big box development. Our commissioners were aware of the proposed development for many months before bringing it to residents’ attention – at which time it was immediately described it as a done deal.

Good Growth DeKalb does not accept this resignation. We choose to oppose this development, and believe can win. Walmarts all over the country have been defeated by the sheer power of community opposition, whether there are legal grounds to challenge them or not. Our lawyers have been studying site plans and other documents and we will challenge Walmart and Selig on any legal grounds that emerge. Please join us in expanding community opposition!

Isn’t the proposed Walmart one of the newer, “small footprint” stores?

No. The proposed Walmart is 149,000 square feet – approximately the size of three football fields. The proposed Walmart would occupy virtually the entire square footage of half of Suburban Plaza (to the right of Piccadilly), with underground parking; there would be only 75 handicapped spaces above ground, with Walmart filling most of the current parking lot. While Walmart is hyper-vigilant in its prosecution of shoplifters inside their stores, they are notorious for providing very little security in their parking lots and underground decks.

Isn’t Walmart better than what’s at Suburban Plaza right now?

A 149,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter is not the answer to the plaza’s redevelopment. Good Growth DeKalb supports local, small, midsize and neighborhood-friendly businesses at Suburban Plaza, with attractive landscaping and green space. Contrary to what Walmart and Selig would have you believe, the proposed Walmart includes very little green space, mostly in terms of decorative (not shade) trees.

Part of Good Growth DeKalb’s mission is to convince Selig to work with the neighborhoods on a re-imagined redevelopment of Suburban Plaza that complements, supports, reflects and extends the uniqueness of Decatur. Suburban Plaza is the gateway to the City of Decatur, and we believe that is why Decatur’s mayor Bill Floyd stated in his 2012 State of the City address that he does not believe Walmart is the right fit for Suburban Plaza.

In the course of our organizing we have heard many ideas from community residents for a plan for Suburban Plaza that would be attractive, community-friendly and commercially viable. Please see our Vision Board for a list of these ideas, and submit your own!

Isn’t there already a Walmart very close by in Avondale?

Yes. The Avondale Walmart is only 3.8 miles from Suburban Plaza. There are also Walmarts in Tucker, Stone Mountain, on Gresham Road (not far from East Atlanta and East Lake) and in Chamblee; there is an additional Walmart proposed for Stone Mountain and a new Walmart grocery store scheduled for Tucker. Walmart has a documented history of saturating a market and then closing the worst-performing store, leaving an ugly, shuttered hulk in its wake. Walmart has the means to build very cheaply and take very little loss when closing stores.

Having virtually saturated rural areas, Walmart is now moving into suburban and urban areas at an alarming rate. Rural areas have already experienced the decimation of their Main Streets and village centers, and residents know what it means to have, literally, nowhere else to shop. What choice will we have if Walmarts open every few miles? What will happen to Walmart prices when there is no competition left?

What effect would the proposed Walmart have on local businesses?

Within 18 months of a Chicago Walmart opening, 82 out of 306 small businesses went under. The downtown areas of countless small towns around the country have been turned into ghost towns. Selig’s plan for Suburban Plaza would effectively eliminate all of its existing – primarily local – businesses, as Selig plans to raise rents in the non-Walmart half of the shopping center and is actively pursuing national chain stores for that section. The proposed Supercenter will include a grocery store, a pharmacy and a garden center. How will Ace Hardware, Publix, Kroger, CVS, Walgreens and many of our local businesses survive? What will be the future of North DeKalb Mall?

It is the experience of communities around the country that it is not just existing businesses lost because of Walmart competition, but also the businesses that small businesses use – the local lawyer, accountant and bank – all of whom create a vibrant web of local connectivity.

Wouldn’t Walmart provide much-needed jobs?

Studies show that for every two jobs Walmart creates, three are lost as existing businesses are displaced. Furthermore, Walmart provides poor quality jobs, Walmart pays very low wages and keeps many employees “part-time” so that they don’t qualify for benefits. Workers have said when non-management employees are hired, they are handed a packet of information and forms for Peachcare and Medicaid, and many Walmart employees are forced to go on food stamps. We need good jobs that will make people more stable, not keep them on the brink of poverty. We need jobs that pay a living wage and provide affordable healthcare for all.

Won’t Walmart benefit the county by paying taxes?

Walmart will certainly pay taxes to the county. Unfortunately, DeKalb County taxpayers would probably end up subsidizing Walmart’s profits and exploitation of its workers through this increased reliance on government subsidies, as well as unsustainable stress on our infrastructure.

But Walmart has such low prices!

We did a price comparison between the Walmart in Avondale Estates and the DeKalb Farmers Market, and found DeKalb Farmers Market cheaper on all selected items – plus, affordable items are available in many other outlets.
The more Walmarts there are, the less likely it is that their prices will remain low. Further, there is a high cost to low price, not only with Walmart’s exploitation of U.S. workers, but in their much, much greater exploitation and poor labor practices towards workers around the world who work in factories that supply Walmarts.

How would the proposed Walmart really affect me?

Studies have shown that a Walmart within two miles of your home lowers property values and increases crime. The big six-way intersection at Suburban Plaza is one of the busiest in DeKalb County, with 70,000 cars a day passing through! How long would it take to get through the big intersection with the addition of a Walmart? How can Medlock Road sustain tractor-trailer trucks? With Church Street, one of the access streets to Suburban Plaza, going down to two lanes in Decatur, what will happen to traffic there? We are bound to experience a significant increase in cut-through traffic in our neighborhoods. What will this mean for children, pets, bicyclists and pedestrians? Picture North Decatur Road from mid-afternoon on – how could it take any more traffic? What would a Walmart mean for already-challenged ambulance traffic going to DeKalb Medical, Emory, Egleston and the VA hospitals? For fire, police and other emergency vehicles?

What can I do to stop this harmful development?