Wal-Mart Belongs on Freeways
By Wells Dunbar,
2:54PM, Thu. Dec. 21, 2006
Chronic troll-in-residence M1EK (former Urban Transportation Commission member Mike Dahmus) points us to a lengthy comment in this Austinist discussion by none other than Brewster McCracken. (Or someone claiming to be him. But if it's a fake, then his doppelgänger's got McCracken's mannerisms – his talking points, the bloviation, the hepcat-parlance he adopts for the kids – down to an almost frightening degree.) After dispensing crazy "props," MC Cracken breaks down the science at Northcross, yo:
"1. The Council was told by Wal-Mart reps that the project was going to comply with the Design Standards and Mixed Use Ordinance when we were first told about this project the week before it hit the press. That turned out to be untrue.
2. Whether the neighborhoods would have the same reaction to a Costco or Target is apples and oranges, because this Super Wal-Mart will be 24 hours/7 days a week and will be 225,000 square feet. Costco is 153,000 square feet, located on a highway, and closes at 8:30 pm M-F, 6 pm Sat. and Sun. The largest Target in Central TX is 171,000 sq. ft, located on I-35, and closes at 9 pm M-S, 8 pm on Sunday… It's a completely different experience from other power center retailers.
3. It appears likely that Lincoln and Wal-Mart have been untruthful about the traffic impact of this highway-style development… At a minimum, Wal-Mart and Lincoln have some explaining to do, and they have a responsibility to start telling the truth.
4. It's a bum rap on the neighborhoods to try to label them as NIMBY's. They are supporting significant Triangle-caliber densities (which are far denser than the Northcross power center) at Crestview Station."
Which M1EK responds to with his hoary argument that locating Wal-Mart on a freeway or frontage road is a bad idea, because it's bad for pedestrian traffic.
Which might ring true if Wal-Mart was some Parisian-style grocer the proletariat ducks into on their daily bike home from work for fresh kumquats and loaves of sourdough – but Wal-Mart's entire business model is built on weekly, load-the-kids-in-the-Suburban sojourns to buy shit in bulk. The idea of people walking or biking to Wal-Mart is cute, but they'd look a little foolish trudging back with a 52-inch plasma and a barrel of baby oil on the goddamn bus. As for workers' ability to get to and fro sans automobile, the No. 338 bus runs directly to the 183 Wal-Mart, perpendicular to the freeway feeders M1EK so despises. And in my former life, riding metro to a job right by it in Northeast Austin, there were always several folks heading to or back from Wal-Mart that way.
It also goes without mention that a 24-hour, 217,000-square-foot "urban" Wal-Mart is by its own admission "destination retail," with shoppers hopefully lured in from afar to marvel at their upscale wares, escalators, and such. The idea that it should be plopped down in the middle of an already-crowded intersection is patently ridiculous, but M1EK has never been one for a sensible argument in this case. He admits as much here, where he says those nasty neighbors deserve Wal-Mart – because of the Shoal Creek bike lane debacle. Huh? Oh, and because they voted against light rail. So nuts to them. All of which certainly makes for a "bake-sale of bile," but nothing approximating rational city planning.