Late last night, Twitter was abuzz with news of development across the river in Ward 7. Council member Yvette Alexander (W7) tweeted, “Big box retailer coming to Ward 7? Stay tuned!” This being the age of instant gratification and always-on communication, Fairfax Village‘s Veronica Davis pressed Alexander for more details. Councilman Tommy Wells (W6) replied with the bombshell: “Walmart’s coming to DC.“
That was enough to get things rolling on Twitter and for the council members to respond with some critical details concerning the new sites: there would be multiple smaller, more urban Wal-Marts in the District with Wards 7 and 5 being locations on the current plan. The total number would be “less than 10” and the sites would largely be 80,000-90,000 square feet instead of the 220,000 square feet sites in the suburbs.
The new urban model Wal-marts start at 20,000 square feet, and have at their heart a grocery model, which Wells says has Wal-mart playing average grocery store wages in the new locations, including the ones slated for DC, according to Wells. These new stores could go a long way to solving some of the Food Desert problems that the eastern side of the city frequently have, but there are concerns around the big box model that have a lot to do with abandonable, non-reuseable storefronts, and that’s something the city will have to address as part of the development process. The good news is, though, that multiple new retail venues can mean an increase in jobs for both skilled and unskilled labor, and in a city with double digit unemployment, it’s hard to argue with jobs.