Developers: Walmart would ‘not fit’ Jackson Sq.

September 9, 2011
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JACKSON SQ.—As part of a national push to open more small-scale urban stores, the discount mega-chain Walmart has recently been looking to open a store in Boston and has shown interest in Roxbury.

Walmart officials declined to comment on whether they have looked at Jackson Square on the JP/Roxbury border, where a major redevelopment project is under way. Developers and an activist there said Walmart sounds like a poor match, but no one ruled it out.

“We don’t have any announced prospective locations,” Walmart spokesperson Steve Resilvo told the Gazette. “We do continue to evaluate prospects all across the city, with a special emphasis on underserved neighborhoods,” he said.

Walmart’s possible move to Boston has encountered stiff opposition from Mayor Thomas Menino on the grounds that Walmart’s business practices undercut local businesses.

Jackson Square Partners, a consortium of for-profit and nonprofit developers working on the redevelopment project has not even considered it, representatives from two of the developers told the Gazette.

Both declined to state categorically that Walmart is not welcome in Jackson, but said they did not think the discount store would be a good fit for the area.

Walmart “hasn’t even come up,” said Sally Swenson, spokesperson for the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC), a JSP member organization.

Walmart “does not fit the community vision,” she said, noting that when a plan was floated in the 1990s to bring a Kmart to the square, “people expressed pretty strongly that it did not fit their vision of Jamaica Plain.”

Another JSP member, nonprofit developer Urban Edge, then under different leadership, proposed the ill-fated Kmart project.

Chrystal Kornegay, executive director of Urban Edge, agreed that a Walmart in Jackson Square is unlikely. “Our development plan is pretty well-established. We haven’t even thought about [Walmart] in relation to what we are doing here,” she said.

“We could probaby use a Youth and Family Center more than we could use a Walmart,” said Rodney Singleton, chair of the Jackson Square Community Advisory Committee (CAC)—a group appointed by the Boston Redevelopment Authority to provide input on the redevelopment of the square. A youth center is a long-stalled part of the plan.

“Not even considering the [potential] economic impacts” of Walmart on local businesses, Singleton said, he thinks a Walmart would be  “out of scale” with the vision for small and medium-sized retail in the square.

But, “I think the whole (CAC) wouldn’t be willing to listen to a plan if they had one,” he said. “We would have to think things through very carefully.”

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