Okay, so it wasnâ€™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 â€œsuper center.â€ (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 Iâ€™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 isnâ€™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 couldnâ€™t fight Wal-Mart because, well, theyâ€™re Wal-Mart, it was a very satisfying, â€œScrew you.â€
Sven, Krista, Bob, Maureen, Bud, Barb, and Brad came with me and The Dude to the protest. I really appreciated this as they donâ€™t have a dog in this fight. None of them live near us, so this development wonâ€™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 thatâ€™s not the only reason this project is such a dreadful idea. Itâ€™s also a bad choice for the redevelopment of this property because Wal-Mart isnâ€™t invested in the community.
Wal-Martâ€™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 â€œdeadâ€ mall and a â€œdeadâ€ Wal-Mart is that someone might still be using the mall. (Northcross, our â€œdeadâ€ mall, still has a nifty skating rink that Iâ€™ve used on occasion, a Guitar Center, and other shops. Itâ€™s just not operating at capacity and has lost its anchor stores.)
The neighborhoods donâ€™t object to re-development of the property. Obviously, itâ€™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, weâ€™re fighting. Fighting for our neighborhood. And thatâ€™s a remarkably powerful thing. Weâ€™re not a gaggle of consumers to be fed into the corporate maw. Weâ€™re neighbors and friends. Thatâ€™s something worth fighting for. Itâ€™s something that isnâ€™t part of the corporate mentality. This isnâ€™t about profits, itâ€™s about our lives. It may very well be that the next big fight isnâ€™t going to be with guns, itâ€™ll be with people standing up and saying â€œNoâ€ to giant multi-national corporations shoving their solely-profit-driven-agendas down our throats. (You know, like theyâ€™ve been doing for the last 60 years.)
And if thereâ€™s anything that can bring down a giant, itâ€™s a bunch of Davids. (And Svens, and Kristas, and Buds, and Maureens . . . )