Okay, so it wasn’t The March on Washington, but today, my friends and neighbors stood together to try and stop the Biggest Retailer On The Earth from shoving a 24/7, 227,000 square-foot monstrosity down the throat of our neighborhoods.
We showed up and made a circle a mile long around the location where Wal-Mart wants to install its “super center.” (A fabulously oxymoronic designation if there ever was one.) More than 2,500 people showed up on this cold, grey morning. There were old people, middle-aged farts like us, children, dogs (though I’m pretty sure the dogs were in it solely for the butt sniffing), and the assorted Austin-weird.
It was a thing of beauty.
Yes, I know this isn’t the same as protesting the war, or a civil rights march, or any other kind of demonstration having to do with the larger things in life. However, after hearing so many people tell us we couldn’t fight Wal-Mart because, well, they’re Wal-Mart, it was a very satisfying, “Screw you.”
Sven, Krista, Bob, Maureen, Bud, Barb, and Brad came with me and The Dude to the protest. I really appreciated this as they don’t have a dog in this fight. None of them live near us, so this development won’t affect them directly. But in true Breakfast Bunch style, they showed up. Maybe it was for the kolaches. (Bribery is a potent weapon in rabble rousing.) Maybe it was for the idea. Whichever, I am deeply grateful they came along.
Last time I wrote about this for EatOurBrains, I talked about the size of the project, the noise it would generate, and the pollution it would cause. But that’s not the only reason this project is such a dreadful idea. It’s also a bad choice for the redevelopment of this property because Wal-Mart isn’t invested in the community.
Wal-Mart’s M.O. is to come in, build a super-center, and keep it active for about 10-15 years. At which time, they abandon the property and build a new Wal-Mart close to the old location. There are dead Wal-Marts littering the American landscape. The only difference between a “dead” mall and a “dead” Wal-Mart is that someone might still be using the mall. (Northcross, our “dead” mall, still has a nifty skating rink that I’ve used on occasion, a Guitar Center, and other shops. It’s just not operating at capacity and has lost its anchor stores.)
The neighborhoods don’t object to re-development of the property. Obviously, it’s being underutilized. But what was once an area without much development around it, is now surrounded by residential neighborhoods. (Though Allandale, where I live, was completed thirteen years before the mall was built.)
Responsible Growth 4 Northcross has an ambitious plan for a mixed-use mall. I doubt that this ambitious plan will get any serious consideration. The current property owners, Lincoln Properties, have shown no interest in meeting with the neighborhoods and working on a better resolution. It takes a lot of money to develop mixed use with commercial, residential, and retail together. Though the first malls were all developed around this combination. Everything old is new again.
So, we’re fighting. Fighting for our neighborhood. And that’s a remarkably powerful thing. We’re not a gaggle of consumers to be fed into the corporate maw. We’re neighbors and friends. That’s something worth fighting for. It’s something that isn’t part of the corporate mentality. This isn’t about profits, it’s about our lives. It may very well be that the next big fight isn’t going to be with guns, it’ll be with people standing up and saying “No” to giant multi-national corporations shoving their solely-profit-driven-agendas down our throats. (You know, like they’ve been doing for the last 60 years.)
And if there’s anything that can bring down a giant, it’s a bunch of Davids. (And Svens, and Kristas, and Buds, and Maureens . . . )