- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 22, 2004

Discussions are underway between America’s largest employer and developers to build a store on Brentwood Road NE, near the postal distribution facility that was closed for more than a year because of anthrax. Bringing Wal-Mart to the capital would surely be a coup for city leaders, who have been trying for years to boost tax revenues and stem the flow of expendable dollars to the suburbs.

But, as has happened elsewhere across the country, the usual suspects are trying to marshal forces to yank a welcome mat. Opponents of the Wal-Mart project include ACORN, which says it is committed to “organizing the poor and the powerless,” Manna Inc., an organization that supports “affordable” housing, and the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO. They and other groups that support “workers’ rights” have joined forces, claiming such a huge retailer would sound the death knell for small shops and livable wages. To the contrary, Wal-Mart would be a community maker in this instance, not a community killer.

Rhode Island Place in Brentwood is wedged between the New York Avenue/Route 50 corridor, Florida Avenue (where a new Metro rail station is scheduled to open in December) and Rhode Island Avenue (site of a current Metro station). That Wal-Mart would be situated along three major corridors and two rail stations means it would capture dollars coming and going. Also, as the area tries to rebound, housing projects under construction, coupled with longtime homeowners, make the location a hot prospect. Wal-Mart’s prospective neighbors include Home Depot and Giant Food, neither of which feels threatened by the No. 1 retailer, which employs 1.2 million workers, as well as U.S. Postal Service and Fed Ex distribution facilities, work sites with hundreds of workers in search of low-cost purchases. In fact, a so-called Big Box store is precisely what was originally planned for Rhode Island Place; then K Mart filed for bankruptcy.

Moreover, it’s also worth noting that Wal-Mart would not merely bring convenient and low-priced shopping options to the city. Wal-Mart’s employment opportunities also would help to suppress the city’s unemployment numbers, which, higher than the national rate at 7.1 percent, have needed a substantial push downward for better than a decade.

The job opportunities, even for seniors and full-time parents in search of part-time jobs, must not be lost on City Hall.

Manna and organizations like it can indeed provide a constructive voice for policy-makers during discussions on small- and large-scale economic development projects. If Wal-Mart were trying to push its way into a quaint community of boutiques and small shops, we would likely consider lending our voice to the opposition. The Brentwood area, which has its share of derelict sites, is hardly such a community.

Rhode Island Place was good enough for K Mart, and it is good enough for Wal-Mart. City Hall lent its dissenting voice to a casino setting up shop in Northeast Washington. It is doing all it can to lure Major League Baseball to the nation’s capital, including building a home for a team practically free of charge. It needs to do all it can to roll out the red carpet for Wal-Mart.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide