Boulder and Walmart are an unlikely combination. But after months of speculation, rumors and protests, it now appears that one of the nation's most progressive communities will soon be home to the retailer most liberals love to hate. And judging by early reaction to reports that a Walmart will be installed in Diagonal Plaza, 2850 Iris Avenue, plenty of locals are already unhappy about the latest development.
Walmart confirmed that it would be building a "neighborhood market" at the shopping center in a statement sent to the Boulder Daily Camera. It reads in part: "We are excited to announce plans for a new Walmart Neighborhood Market in Boulder. In addition to offering customers convenience and savings, the store will create new jobs and also help revitalize Diagonal Plaza."
The announcement followed a Monster.com listing that seeks assistant manager trainees for a Walmart store in Boulder. The ad's pitch begins like so:
As an Assistant Manager Trainee with Walmart, you will be entrusted with making area-specific merchandising, operations and people development decisions, including budgeting/forecasting and assessing economic trends and demographic information. Your ideas and sales strategies will ensure the success of your department and create opportunities for new growth. You also will contribute to Walmart's sustainability efforts, such as waste and energy reduction, that have a positive environmental, socioeconomic and business impact.
The socially conscious element of this job description is unlikely to placate those in the metro area who regard Walmart with antipathy -- and there are plenty of them. Back in December 2011, members of Occupy Denver, among other organizations, shut down a Walmart distribution center in Loveland via a protest that led to thirteen arrests and at least two jailings. This past June, locals raised a ruckus over the prospect of a Walmart at 8th and Colorado. And on Black Friday in November, an estimated 150 people picketed a Lakewood Walmart to highlight the firm's allegedly poor wages and shoddy working conditions.
The prospect of a Walmart in Diagonal Plaza has also led to a backlash in Boulder. In September, an organization calling itself Citizens United to Preserve Boulder launched an online petition entitled "Don't Big Box Boulder." The petition's preamble reads like so:
• The city of Boulder is currently considering redevelopment options for Diagonal Plaza at the corner of Iris and 28th Streets.
• Most Boulder residents would agree, a Wal-Mart Supercenter or similar Big Box stores are not keeping with our city character and future plans for the city.
• Such a large store of 100,000-150,000 square feet would have an immediate and dramatic impact on our roads and congestion levels.
• Moreover, a Wal-Mart is not the type of business we are trying to attract to Boulder. It does not promote pedestrian friendly or sustainable development nor do they adhere to fair labor practices!
• Big Box stores like Wal-Mart often hurt local small businesses which we cherish and work to support here in Boulder.
• Diagonal Plaza may be in need of redevelopment, but introducing a large store that requires acres of parking will not fix the site's problem.
The petition itself asks the Boulder City Council to cap commercial development at 75,000 square feet, and while the document only garnered 477 signatures, it may have had an effect. The planned neighborhood market is estimated at 52,000 square feet, well under this standard.
However, size alone isn't the only objection to Walmart among Boulderites. As evidence, check out the November 2012 Occupy Boulder page labeled "NO Wal-Mart in Boulder." The following intro eschews gripes about square footage in favor of criticisms aimed at company practices:
Wal-Mart has submitted permits to move into Boulder at 28th and Iris. Wal-Mart destroys 3 jobs for every 2 it creates. Wal-Mart employees are given low wages, not enough hours/week and terrible options for benefits. Wal-Mart workers have no prospect of advancement. Wal-Mart saps tax money from the city, state and federal government because many of it's workers, despite full time jobs, use medicaid, food stamps and other social welfare programs paid for by our tax money. Wal-Mart uses social welfare programs to shirk it's responsibilities to it's workers. A cheap toaster is not so cheap when you factor in these facts. SAY NO TO WAL-MART in Boulder!
The most recent Daily Camera article about the new Walmart has already garnered scores of comments, and quite a few of them are positive. Some examples:
Can someone explain what the issue is here? An unknown company is taking over and remodeling (at their expense) over 50,000 sq ft of vacant space. An unknown company is going to sell something, and provide $$ to the tax base of Boulder. An unknown company will be providing jobs. Who cares what company it is.
Welcome!! Perhaps Boulder's prices will drop a bit and those with limited funds will be able to afford more. And, there are plenty of Boulder grown employers who have more labor mistakes than anyone would imagine. HOORAY FOR WALMART.
A Walmart grocery will certainly give that overpriced Safeway across 28th Street a run for the money! Oh, wait, that poor Safeway is not a national chain, or is it? What about the little King Soopers? Even the Trader Joe's that Boulderites are salivating over? Whole Foods?? What the hey, they're....all...out of state owned retailers.
Grow up, Boulder! We all shop at chains, OMG -- even -- WALMART!!
But there are plenty of other comments from readers unhappy about the move....
I can't help but feel sorry for whoever gets those jobs and has to contend with all the rage Boulderites are gonna take out on them.
What a shame. Louisville managed to make Sam's Club the worst performing store in the nation -- Boulder, you can do this!
Labor conscious shoppers will continue to shop at Costco in Superior.
Boulder with a Wal-Mart... I never thought I'd see the day :(
That day's not here yet, but it should be before long. Unless there's an unexpected delay, the store is expected to be open for business this fall.
Look below to see an interactive graphic showing the area where the new Walmart will be built. If you have problems seeing the image, click "View Larger Map."
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More from our News archive: "Photos: Walmart in Lakewood protested by 100-plus demonstrators on Black Friday."