Seeing Red at the West End Walmart Public Meeting

A few highlights from last night’s meet-and-jeer on the third floor of the George R. Brown Convention Center Downtown, where representatives of Walmart, Ainbinder, and the city gave presentations on the Walmart and related retail developments proposed for the area around Yale and Koehler streets in the West End:

  • Mayor Parker announced she had originally hoped to hold the meeting at the United Way building at 50 Waugh St. in Memorial Heights, but the nonprofit turned her down — probably because of concerns it might get “rowdy,” she joked. But the night’s meeting format seemed designed to keep public outbursts to a minimum: After the presentations, attendees were asked to break up into smaller groups and gather around tables in the back to get their questions answered, one by one, from city officials or developer representatives. Before attendees could be dispersed, though, a few people managed to work their way to a microphone and ask questions or make statements in front of the entire room.
  • A significant percentage of the crowd wore “I don’t want that Walmart” red shirts. It wasn’t clear what portion of the less-vibrantly-dressed people there supported the development, but during his presentation Walmart senior VP Jeff McAllister did announce that many of the company’s suppliers were in attendance.


  • Details of the particular neighborhood amenities Ainbinder is hoping to fund with a 380 agreement were announced. Included: a 12-ft.-wide crushed-limestone jogging path and “antique” lighting along the Heights Blvd. esplanade from I-10 to the railroad tracks north of Center St. and the restoration of the Yale and Heights Blvd. bridges over White Oak Bayou to their “original splendor.”
  • Ainbinder unveiled its site plan for the development — not too different from the one leaked last month — as well as additional renderings. We’ll have more on these in a later post.

Missed the meeting, or just couldn’t get enough of this sort of thing? Mayor Parker promises you’ll have another chance next week.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

37 Comment

  • quote/”restoration of the Yale and Heights Blvd. bridges over White Oak Bayou to their “original splendor.””/endquote

    You mean slapping a coat of walmart-blue paint on them like the Yale Street / train tracks underpass? :-)

  • No doubt the West End Walmart public meeting was good theater, a liitle protest performance art. United Way refused to host the meeting due to concerns about possible violence? Too funny. Looking forward to hearing the comments from Swamploters who attended.

  • What was the website Ainbender was launching after the meeting, it was something like

    If anything should’ve been taken from the meeting last night it’s that the project is going forward. The people need to wake up and realize that and try and get as much as they can out of Ainbender and Wal-Mart. Two things I see as mandatory are the use of anti-theft carts so they don’t end up littering our streets. Another is to force Wal-Mart to use the roads they plan on repaving for their delivery trucks. These are in addition to the obvious 24/7 security, landscaping, etc.

  • Just another example of the pickle our country is in, poor folks buy Chinese crap from Wal-Mart and the US finances deficit spending in part with a loan from China in the form of the Reds buying US Treasuries. ECO 101 – Money goes out twice to China but never comes back, clearly unsustainable. Drive the southeastern US and see the countless closed manufacturing facilities leaving few employment opportunities save a job at Wal-Mart. Reminds me of water circling the bowl, the Governments solution = print and spend more money our country doesn’t have. Buy gold!

  • Good points cross but they seem to be lost amidst all of the straw men and Wal-Mart’s shrieking supporters. Understanding that Wal-Mart is a black hole from which Houstonians’ money will never return is probably the best-kept secret in all of this.

  • They claimed 400 new jobs a $1M in sales tax revenue – but in reality, how much of either of those are new, and how much will be displacement from other businesses in the area? If I need some groceries I need some groceries, so will buy them somewhere in the area. But it’s a wash as far as the tax revenue is concerned – there’s no new money there.

  • @anon22,

    I honestly don’t care either way as I live on the opposite side of town, but it seems the shrieking isn’t really from the Walmart supporters on this messageboard or in the meeting. Are you reading a different article? A “Black Hole” really? It’s a retail store… I think folks are getting to be a bit melodramatic.

  • Well you can see what you want to see, wherever you want, but the fact is that Wal-Mart is a money drain out of the area.

  • Rowdy?? Nah, not that crowd. ;o)

    But, apparently Miz Mayor was prepared. Reading their FB page, some were not happy at being split into smaller groups.

    There is supposed to be a follow up meeting next week, location still unknown.

    Does GRB require a damage deposit?

  • Breaking protesters into smaller discussion groups seems to be a modern day version of “divide and conquer.” Not that they really needed to conquer anything…it’s a done deal.

  • All retail is a money drain out of the area. The majority of the clothes you wear were made in Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh. Home hard, mostly China, Vietnam, Japan for the fancier stuff. Groceries, mostly out of State these days, particularly if you buy organic. Organic produce is almost entirely sourced from a small group of factory farming operations in California. That is the price of globalisation. However we also benefit from the same effect. A large proportion of the hi-tech industries are based primarily in the US for example. If your preaching economic isolationism that’s fine but at least be aware that it is a two way street. Thousands of jobs in the Houston area would disappear overnight if we limited ourselves to in-country or worse still in-state business only.

  • And the solution of course if you want to buy local … is to buy local. Not Whole Foods or Central Market mind you, remember that all that money just goes back out of State. Just please don’t patronise the rest of us by thinking that you know better than us where we should shop too.

  • cross needs to re-take his economics course.

    China inflates their currency to keep it weak so that their products are more affordable for us to import than they are for us to make ourselves, then finances our government’s expenditures at ridiculously low interest rates, which in turn displaces funds that otherwise would have been invested in treasuries to the private debt and equity markets so that your interest rate on the credit card you used to buy China’s imports with at Wal-Mart is lower.

  • Jimbo, bad examples. Whole Foods is headquartered in Austin. HEB is headquartered in San Antonio (and is family-owned). A fair bit of their profits do stay in-state.

    Nevertheless, your point is well-taken. The money spent at those stores certainly doesn’t go back into our community.

  • if we can learn anythign out of this it’s that Texas desperrately needs to raise taxes in order to improve our schools and teach some basic economics classes that reflect the real world.

  • “If your preaching economic isolationism that’s fine but at least be aware that it is a two way street. ”

    This would be another straw man. Nobody is preaching anything even close to isolationism. Keeping the supply chain local is a good idea (and literally nobody is worse about that than Wal-Mart) but I agree that globalization is the price we pay to get things that we want. But the profits at the end should stay in-state (HEB, Whole Foods etc. or better yet Fiesta) rather than shipping it out to Arkansas.

  • The amount of knee-jerk reaction is amazing. omg – giant mega-corporation moving in! Why arent people protesting gas stations, many of which are foreign-owned(Shell, BP, etc.). Target gets most of it’s stuff from overseas too but no one was causing a fuss when they developed a dilapidated warehouse area. If Walmart is so evil, let people vote with their wallets and not shop there. How much property and sales tax revenue is being realized out of the current grassy patch? How many people does it employ? People pining about semi’s ruining the roads, well it’s hardly the autobahn right now. It’ll be interesting to see how many people who hate it will be Christmas- or back-to-school shopping there in 2011. How much of this anti-Walmart sentiment is being fueled by the Target just a freeway exit away?

  • Y’all get that there Walmart stopped last night???


  • “Why arent people protesting gas stations, many of which are foreign-owned(Shell, BP, etc.).”

    Houston gets quite a bit out of the oil industry supply chain. And it’s a lot of value-added R+D/engineering type stuff. That’s money coming *in*.

    “Target gets most of it’s stuff from overseas too but no one was causing a fuss when they developed a dilapidated warehouse area.”

    It was Wal-Mart, not target, that pioneered the practice of pitting suppliers against each other and mandating price decreases each year which ultimately drove millions of jobs to China whole hog. Everyone else was looking aghast and playing catch-up.

    “How much of this anti-Walmart sentiment is being fueled by the Target just a freeway exit away?”

    Apparently it’s making the most money per sq. foot of any Target in the chain. It’s more of a motivation for Wal-Mart than it is for anybody else, but I’m sure you already knew that.

  • anon22, it doesn’t matter who pioneered the practice. That’s in the past. What matters NOW is that Wal-Mart and Target (and CVS and Walgreens and Home Depot and Lowe’s and Family Dollar and Dollar General et al.) do the very same thing NOW.

    The year is 2010, not 1990. Let’s try to remember that.

  • anon22,

    Prior to Walmart “pitting suppliers against each other”, the retail suppliers were like little monopolies spread throughout the country. Once Walmart was established enough, they decided to do what was good for the customer (and their bottom line) by increasing the competition. Suppliers left and right had to modernize their supply chains. Walmart essential told them what they want the retail price of their products to be and they had to meet it. If not, Walmart won’t sell it. To companies like Proctor and Gamble and Johnson&Johnson, that was a major bite out of their sales. They conformed and made their processes more efficient. A by product of that is that throughout other retailers the prices also started to drop because they utilize the same suppliers.

    About China: Even with all the goods that are outsourced to Asia in general, the US still manufactures a lot of good. The southeastern U.S. as mentioned manufactures a lot more than they use to. The automobile and the states being a “right to work” environment kept adding jobs. Something the Midwest and rustbelt should have learned as the economy changed.

  • “it doesn’t matter who pioneered the practice. That’s in the past.”

    Agreed, I was simply explaining the source of the antagonism towards Wal-Mart. Please read through the thread before you respond.

  • Living on a fixed income I want the Walmart…now if I was a wealthy person I guess I would have the lux of shopping anywhere and buying anything, but that just ain’t the way it is…so these anti-Walmart more affluent folks are just saying essentially to others “let them eat cake” or perhaps “why don’t you just do without”…I have no problems with items made in China or India or Texas…but making ends meet is rather essential.

  • anon22, I did read your post. To be perfectly clear, are you acknowledging that anger over Wal-Mart’s retailing legacy is merely cathartic and otherwise irrelevant in the present debate? Would you also acknowledge that many (if not most) of the people that are expressing outrage at this Wal-Mart did not previously express outrage at a Target that was positioned to have similar impacts on their neighborhood, that this is an indicator that they’re really just engaging in catharsis, and that since catharsis is irrelevant, so is their opposition? Eh? What say you?

  • @ TheNiche,

    If you think inflated currency is the only thing making their products cheap perhaps you should return to class, last time I checked our Gov’t. was busy keeping rates artificially low as well.
    I am not sure you made a case for money (not crap) flowing into our country, a one way street plain and simple. You don’t really think someone worried enough to buy gold shops at Wal-Mart let alone with credit?

  • The primary source of antagonism against Walmart is that they are the largest and they have bad PI. Target sells the same proportion of Chinese tat and has effectively similar labor practices. But they are not as large. Whole Foods has a direct policy of buying up and closing down independent organic grocers and small chains in their markets but we love Whole Foods.

    Oh and can someone please explain to me why it is better that we buy something from a company that is based in Austin rather than a company that is based in Bentonville, especially given that they are publicly listed and that their profits therefore spread as wide as the shareholders.

  • The profits at Wal-Mart don’t all go out of state. As a Wal-Mart stock owner those profits go to me.

    Do any of the big business haters have any money in the stock market? Why does everyone hate big companies like Wal-Mart and ExxonMobil? The profits these companies make go to people all over the U.S. and the rest of the world. If they’re not going to you then maybe you need to think about starting a 401k.

    As far as Wal-Mart edging out small business owners. So what? None of the profits from small business owners go to me. At least I get some of the Wal-Mart profits. Wal-Mart is owned by people who are not as well-off as many small business owners.

  • I CAN’T stand how the Yale railroad bridge is painted! Noticed it right away when it was being done, looked good with the blue then they added that damn red stripe. I immediately thought of Walmart but dismissed it. I certainly hope that is not the type of continued improvement!

  • The railroad bridge will be ripped out soon anyway. So that won’t matter.

  • The one and only time I ventured into a Wal-Mart was the one on Dunvale when my office was on Richmond. There was a free-range little girl with her pants down in the decongestant aisle doing her business on the floor, so I reported the incident to a cashier and left. That may be an isolated incident, but I’ve never had the urge to try again. Honestly, I don’t hear of anything at the facility that isn’t available at any Kroger, Walgreen’s or Lowe’s, so it’s not some esoteric consumer mecca – people *can* go elsewhere, and Wal-Mart should keep that in mind. It’s going to be built regardless, so I hope the nearby residents can put their efforts into security, drainage, aesthetic appeal, traffic mitigation, etc. to lessen the impact on the neighborhood. I know I won’t be driving on Yale anywhere in the vicinity when it comes to pass.

  • @ cross: Don’t put words in my mouth. Just because I haven’t discussed a factor pertaining to the state of currency markets or international trade does not mean that I am unaware of it.

    And FYI, the Federal Reserve is not the same as the federal government. IN FACT, Congress (which IS a part of the federal government) has consistently voted to expand the limit on treasury debt issuance, which puts upward pressure on the interest rates for those treasuries.

  • I see the similarity now. New Yorkers get to Protest a proposed Mosque next to the former WTC site….

    Houstonians feel the need to voice their opinion and protest a proposed Walmart being put up next to a up and coming gentrified neighborhood that has been, until recently, infused with shotgun homes, prostitutes and drug dealers scoping out the streets.

    things that make you go hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

  • I am not sure why people don’t object living next door to a heavy industrial area, but when Walmart wants to move into the neighborhood people are stubbornly opposed. How is this not an improvement to the area? It’s good to hear about new commercial real estate developments during these tough times.

  • I cant wait till they make it and to the loser pantywaist “stop wal-mart supporters”

    all i gotta say is


  • @kjb434,

    Do you have any more info on the railroad bridge being “ripped out”? Is it due to the third track being added that I read about a while back? With the new I10 feeder road going in my work commute already sucks, I don’t want to deal with Yale closures as well.

    And BTW, someone (COH, Ainbender?) was doing a traffic study yesterday. The little rubber cords were stretched out across Yale @ Koehler but were gone today.

  • Is anyone else laughing at the irony of the location of the next meeting!? High school for law enforcement and criminal justice!? C’mon now! Is there an “Angry Mob Control” practical the kids have to prep for?

  • Let’s just be realistic. One Walmart store is not going to have any impact on anyone in the Heights north of I-10. Yes I am sure the townhouse owners within a couple of blocks of the site are affected. However, they either purchased when the steel mill was in operation or the site was vacant. If they were not smart enough to consider the possibility of what that site could be in the future, then that is just incompetence on their part. I have a good friend who purchased in the townhouse development on Center that backs up to the site. I remember the first time I visited his new townhome and looked out his window into the steel mill. I asked him about it. He said, oh they will probably tear it down someday and either apartments or retail will be built there. He is not all that happy about the Walmart but he knew when he purchased his unit, the area was re-developing and that possibility existed. He wasn’t in the crowd in a red shirt either.

    I never realized the Heights was populated with so many distinguished experts; traffic engineers, retail industry analysts and urban planners. I guess they all stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

    In reality what the Heights has is a few hundred, Drama Queens, Whiners and people who think it is trendy and fashionable to join the Stop Walmart cause. I will be somewhat disappointed once the cement trucks roll down Koehler and they finally give in. I find reading the Stop Walmart facebook page to be quite entertaining.
    Everyone is entitled to their opinion even if it’s formed without any clue to the basic economics of real estate development, city politics or the property rights of a developer in a city without zoning. I am willing to bet most of the opponents of the project voted for Mayor Parker. She has gotten very little criticism. They just say they are disappointed in her. I am sure Mayor Parker would prefer it was not Walmart, but at least she is realistic about the project and realizes she represents the COH not the Peoples Republic of the Heights. These little town hall meetings are nothing more than giving the citizens the opportunity to bitch, she still wants their votes in the next election. She knows there is going to be a Walmart there. I think Mayor Parker views it this way. I could fight it and make a couple thousand voters happy even though the project is not even in the Heights and is not going to change their lives one bit or I can piss off the area’s largest employer. Her decision was made a long time ago. Might as well make it nice as possible with the 380 agreement and let the developer front the cash for some much needed infrastructure work around the project. I didn’t vote for her but I am quite impressed how Mayor Parker has handled this.