Groceries? Hair Salon? Walmart to ask community what they want from store
Company says it will use forums to listen, and to present its case.
The Great Indoors at the Empire Center in Burbank on Tuesday, July 5, 2011. Sears has sold the site to Wal-Mart paving the way for the mega-discount store to move into the center next to its main competitor Target. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo said Tuesday that the company has experience in hosting forums in cities where the mega-retailer has opened. In Washington, D.C., where Walmart is scheduled to open four stores, about 60 community meetings have been held during the past several months, he added.
“We plan to engage the community to listen to concerns, answer questions and share information about the different formats we have at Walmart,” Restivo said.
Walmart executives are still evaluating what to do with the 12-acre site where the Great Indoors is set to close at the end of the month. Walmart, which purchased the property last month, could act as a landlord and lease it to another retailer.
But Deputy City Manager Joy Forbes, who sat in on the hour-long meeting with Mayor Jess Talamantes and Councilman Dave Golonski, said Walmart representatives acknowledged “that this is a prime piece of property and they would love to put a Walmart there.”
Walmart representatives met in separate meetings with Councilmen Gary Bric and David Gordon.
Forbes said city officials encouraged Walmart to get out in the community and let residents know what’s coming down the road, “even if they don’t know all their plans.”
At the public forums, residents would be asked to weigh in on types of amenities and store hours, including a grocery store, hair salon or alcohol sales. Some Walmart stores are open 24 hours.
The public forums would also give Walmart representatives a chance to share information about their company, Talamantes said.
“The more information that’s out there, the better everyone is going to feel,” he said.
Walmart has faced controversy in the past because it is not unionized, has been slapped with a sexual discrimination lawsuit and is known for undercutting the pricing of smaller retailers.
Already some residents have begun organizing against the potential project on social media websites.
In an interview, Burbank resident Julie Casey, who has come out against Walmart on Facebook, said she’d prefer to see a Souplantation restaurant or a Whole Foods store at the location.
But since the city will have little sway over what Walmart decides to do with the site if it fits within the city’s commercial zoning laws, residents may be forced to try and mold the store’s final shape to their will.
Casey said if Walmart did come in, she would not want a 24-hour operation or a grocery store component.
“I don’t really see a need for that,” she said. “I wouldn’t Walmart and pushing others out.”
Restivo, the Walmart spokesman, said the public forums would dispel many misperceptions of the retailer.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there about Walmart,” Restivo said. “When people get to know the facts about the company, the more they see the value of bringing a Walmart to their community.”