- The Washington Times - Monday, January 18, 2016

Bewildered and disappointed, residents near the planned Skyland Town Center in Southeast say Wal-Mart slighted them when it reneged on a deal to build a much-needed store where they live after having built three stores in thriving neighborhoods.

Many said that the 600 jobs the retail giant would have created could have uplifted the community.

“I was shocked. They hurt this area bad,” said George Winfield, a 15-year resident of the neighborhood. “A lot of people were depending on Wal-Mart for jobs.”

Wanda Gilbert, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years, echoed Mr. Winfield.

“It was a great opportunity for people to get jobs,” she said. “People are desperate for jobs around here.”



Wal-Mart announced Friday that it will not move forward in building two stores in Ward 7, eliminating the creation of hundreds of jobs for residents and millions in tax revenue for the city. The retail chain’s decision to pull out of the Capitol Gateway Marketplace in Northeast and Skyland Town Center in Southeast came as part of a larger plan to close 269 stores around the world.

Ms. Gilbert noted that city officials used eminent domain to take over the old Skyland Shopping Center in the early 2000s, promising to revitalize the struggling Southeast neighborhood by delivering new businesses and employment opportunities. She said Wal-Mart’s decision only offers residents another round of broken promises and trashed hopes.

“We’re trying to grow and develop, but they seem to keep tearing us down,” Ms. Gilbert said.

Greg Harris, a 13-year resident of the neighborhood, said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser should do everything she can to hold Wal-Mart to the deal to which they agreed.

“They promised these jobs,” he said. “They should have held to that promise.”

“The mayor needs to hold Wal-Mart to their word,” Mr. Winfield said.

Ms. Bowser on Friday said she was “blood mad” about Wal-Mart’s decision, and D.C. Council member Vincent Orange, at-large Democrat, said the city should sue the retailer for breaking a lease at Skyland.

Bowser spokesman Michael Czin said all options are being considered as the mayor explores the city’s legal options.

D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat, said she met with city officials to discuss a plan of action, but she didn’t go into details.

The big box store, which would have been an anchor at the Skyland development, would have brought 300 retail-related jobs to the community. It also would have brought nearly $65 million in sales and property taxes to the city.

Several residents said they already go to Wal-Marts in Maryland and will keep taking their business out of the District because there are no other stores in Southeast that suit their needs.

“I think a Wal-Mart would have done better here in Southeast than uptown,” said Ted Miles, who has lived in the neighborhood for eight years. He was referring to stores Wal-Mart has built in Northwest and Northeast. “People already go to Maryland for Wal-Mart, and they would have appreciated it here,” he said.

Mr. Winfield said the retail giant would have brought something unique to the neighborhood.

“There’s nothing here like Wal-Mart,” he said, adding that his wife goes to a Wal-Mart store in Prince George’s County to do most of their shopping.

Mr. Harris agreed, saying that Wal-Mart would have offered a place for local folks to take care of all their shopping needs at once.

“It would have been good competition,” he said. “Now we go to Maryland to do our shopping.”

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