On July 12, representatives from Good Growth DeKalb meet with representatives from Selig Enterprises.

From Good Growth DeKalb’s press conference on July 13, 2012:

Good Growth DeKalb met with Selig Enterprises yesterday hoping to find common ground on the Suburban Plaza development. Speaking through their lawyer, Selig made it clear from the beginning that there was nothing to discuss about Walmart: “That is not going to change or go away.”

We presented the voice of the people in the community: petitions signed by more than 3,000 people against the Walmart proposal and we cited the 500+ Stop Walmart signs that are all over the neighborhoods, as well as our survey with 75 percent of responses opposed to Walmart.

Again, Selig’s attorney repeated that they would not discuss Walmart. Very simply, the deal with Walmart provides the financial base for Selig to bring in junior anchor stores, such as LA Fitness, Michaels, and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Thus, the gateway to Decatur becomes another mall filled with chain stores. It seems there would be little interest in small local businesses or mixed use that would follow the precedent set so successfully in downtown Decatur – just lots of chain stores.

The bowling alley will stay. The theatre has been supported by Selig in the past, but it will have to go unless space can be created somewhere else in the center. Perhaps there would be a restaurant with a patio and a coffee shop.

It seems, at this point, finding a legal course to pursue is the only alternative to stop this Walmart.

– Betty Blondeau
One of seven members of Good Growth DeKalb who met with Selig

Robert Blondeau, one of Good Growth DeKalb’s co-leaders, summed up the meeting for an article Ralph Ellis wrote for Patch, Selig Seeking Ideas for Suburban Plaza, which grew out of a letter mentioning the meeting that Selig asked the Medlock Area Association to post:

To begin, the meeting was initiated through Good Growth DeKalb’s communication with CEO Burrell Ellis’ office.  Selig did not ask for or initiate the meeting.  Here is a quick summary of what transpired, but I’ll be happy to answer any follow-up questions you might have.

In addition to representatives from Good Growth DeKalb, in attendance were Scott Selig and Bill Stogner from Selig Enterprises, two of their lawyers, representatives from Medlock and Decatur Heights (Theresa Same and Deanne Thomas, whom were invited without Good Growth DeKalb’s knowledge) and one other staffer from Selig. Through their lawyer, Selig made it clear from the start that they would not talk about Walmart because that plan is not going to change.  They emphasized that there is a signed contract in place and this makes it impossible to change direction, which of course is not true.  Walmart can change its mind at any moment.  Selig’s primary concern is their financial bottom-line.

Scott Selig and Bill Stogner spoke very little.  Their lawyer did most of the talking.  Good Growth DeKalb presented our petition with 3,000+ names and noted that over 500 Stop Walmart signs are all over the neighborhoods reflecting GGD’s position. We also cited data from our door-to-door canvassing: 75% of those we spoke with opposed Walmart, 5% were in favor, 9% were neutral, and 11% were undecided. However, there was no common ground on which to meet. Selig has their position; there will be a Wal-Mart. And we have our position; we will continue to fight with whatever legal means we can find.

The Selig position is pretty much all about financial concerns.  GGD is all about community relations and working together for smart development that reflects walkable, sustainable, connected neighborhoods. For 20+ years Selig could not get anyone interested in Suburban Plaza; now Walmart has stepped up with the money to build one of their Supercenters even though this concept may be outdated, even in terms of Walmart’s future plans to reach an urban market.  Walmart’s investment will enable Selig to have better leverage, they think, with junior anchors such as LA Fitness, HH Gregg, Michael’s, Bed, Bath and Beyond, chain restaurants, and a coffee shop.

There is very little interest in local small business.  Selig is interested in creating just another strip mall that does not reflect the character of Decatur’s popular and successful development model.  Selig’s contention that the redevelopment will reflect the area’s unique personality belies the point that the entire big box development flies in the face of what makes the area liveable and desirable.  Selig’s supposed commitment to the community and its character is nothing less than a shell game.  From our perspective Selig is solely interested in hearing opinions about the redevelopment that match their preconceived notions.  The company will voice its positive support as long as its financial considerations are given top billing.  GGD’s position is that Selig is largely concerned with financial considerations, not smart growth or community cohesion.

Selig feels that they have done enough to support the community and they have listened to the community’s concerns through the two large community meetings held last year and smaller on-going meetings with self-appointed community “leaders.”  Regarding these meetings with groups like MANA, it’s important to note that these group’s representatives speak only for their groups.  As far as we know, none of these groups has made any effort to reach out to individual households to gain a better understanding of how neighbors feel about the development.  It’s for this reason that GGD feels strongly that our position better represents where the community is on this issue.

The meeting was contentious and perhaps unproductive if you gauge success solely through Selig’s narrowly defined ideas; that is, Selig getting its way.  On the other hand, Selig finally heard the other, unfiltered side of the story: Walmart is not wanted and the company’s plan is fatally flawed in terms of growing a more vibrant community.  That was the elephant in the room and Selig sought to control the dialogue by saying we couldn’t address that topic.  As a moneyed and powerful institution, I’m sure Selig is used to getting its way, but Good Growth DeKalb is providing a voice to those who disagree with Selig’s position.  With that in mind, Good Growth DeKalb views the meeting as a success.  Someone finally was able to say to Selig that their redevelopment plans are not a welcome addition to the neighborhood.