Walmart Opinion Piece: an Interview with Lorraine Anderson


by John Kiljan

Dear CLRC members and friends,

Because of the interest, we’ve been looking for local residents — both pro and con — to be interviewed about Walmart’s application to build a new store in the rundown Arvada Plaza shopping center southeast of the intersection of Independence and Ralston Road.  This interview is with Lorraine Anderson and was held on May 30, 2013.  Lorraine Anderson is for the City accepting Walmart’s development plan. 

Lorraine Anderson

Lorraine Anderson

Ms Anderson is a local resident and has served six four-year terms on the Arvada City Council.  She has also been a long-time advocate for neighborhoods along the central Ralston Road corridor.  She has lived in the neighborhood with her husband Homer Anderson since 1965.  Lorraine currently serves on the RTD Board of Directors where she represents District L, which covers our Ralston Road neighborhoods.  She is also the current Chair of the RTD Board of Directors and is an advocate for the construction of the Gold Line commuter rail from Denver to Arvada.

The interviewer was CLRC member T.O. Owens.  I sat in and took notes and asked a few follow-up questions during the 30-minute interview.

INTERVIEW NOTES

CLRC:  Can you tell us what the Arvada Plaza and the other Triangle shopping centers were like in the past and how they came to be what they are today?

LORRAINE ANDERSON:  It was a thriving shopping center that had a movie theatre, a grocery store, a hardware store and a nice shoe store.  I had kids who had unusually wide feet and the owner would special order shoes for me.  There was also a sporting goods store and there was a dry-goods store.  It was a thriving area.  You could get anything you wanted down there from dry goods, to groceries, to kid’s clothes, to shoes, and you could go for entertainment, too.  You could go to see a movie.

But it was a different time.  I can tell you a story:  One of my sons was given a rifle when he was 14, and it was supposed to have a scope loaded on it before he and his dad went hunting.  His dad didn’t get home on time, so he carried the rifle from our house down to the sporting goods store to get the scope mounted on it.  Now, can you imagine what would happen to him if he tried to do that today? 

CLRC:  So, what was the evolution to get the Triangle to where it is today?

LA:  You know, I think it really changed when the Westminster Mall opened up.  We found ourselves living in an area between Westminster Mall and the Lakewood shopping malls on Colfax.  So I think people found that they could get more goods and services by getting in a car and driving elsewhere.  So that’s what they elected to do.  Eventually the business owners who saw their customers falling off had to give up their stores.  In some cases they sold their businesses, like the sporting goods store, which stayed there for a long time.  Duane’s Men’s Store also stayed there for a long time, Duane is still active in Arvada. 

CLRC:  What do you think about the developer’s plan for a Walmart and the small shops that are to go with it? 

Arvada Plaza Preliminary Development Plan
Arvada Plaza Preliminary Development Plan

                                         (click on this image to enlarge it) 

LA:  All I have really seen so far are the plan drawings.  I have not looked at them in great detail.  But I do know for a fact that this is the first time in well over 25 years that anybody has offered to build a store of any substance in this area. 

CLRC:   What do you think are the advantages of having this store and bringing a new big-box retailer to the area?

LA:  Basically, it will clean up a property that has had no upkeep for a long time.  There always was the issue of flooding in much of the Triangle.  But the City took the Triangle out of the floodway several years ago with the Van Bibber flood control project.  Since then people have been able to come in and invest.  But until now, we’ve never had a viable offer from anyone to come in and build a store that would stimulate a better mix of shopping opportunities for the neighborhood.     

The Albertson store closed long ago.  There’s an auto parts store there now.  Movie theaters have gotten much larger than just the one screen we had before.  So the property owner has almost been doing us a public service by letting out the store fronts to the few tenants he could get to rent there.

CLRC:  What are the detriments to a big-box store going in at that location?

LA:  I don’t really know of any downsides.  Certainly, the Walmart has to be scaled down for this particular piece of property — and the proposal seems to do that.  I mean you couldn’t fit in a full-sized Walmart or Target, or any other big box like that in this limited space.  But a grocery-backed, medium-sized box store would be a nice fit for the property. 

As to traffic, perhaps people have gotten used to the lower levels of traffic on Ralston Road since 72nd Avenue opened up, but the streets around here were built to handle the expected increase in volume.  And, remember, that the new traffic will not be just pass-through traffic, but instead it will be going to grocery stores and other kinds of shopping in the Triangle.06_191

CLRC:  What do you see as the long-term impacts — both positive and negative — of this kind of project? 

LA:  You know, this area has been run down for such a long time, and it has been such an eyesore — and perhaps it hasn’t actually destroyed property values, but it certainly has deteriorated the marketability of the properties in the surrounding neighborhoods. 

By cleaning the property up and making it look better, I think that will make our neighborhoods look nicer and it will increase our property values. 

I know that the City has talked for a long time about making 57th into a parkway kind of urban street where people can safely walk and cycle and have easy residential and business access.  That also needs to happen with Ralston Road.  This project is an opportunity to start making this area a part of the rest of Arvada — instead of a shabby hole right in the middle of the City.

CLRC:  If this project is approved, do you think we’ll see more commercial and residential development around it?  Will it spark developments, for example, on the north side of Ralston Road as well?

LA:  Oh, definitely!  The rebuilt park across the street will soon be finished, and the City has plans for restoring the recreational opportunities that have been lost in the area.  There’s a possibility of having nicer housing throughout the area.  That may not make it a town center, but it will at least be a center of interest for small shops, restaurants, and family activities that will enhance livability in the area.

CLRC:  What do you think will happen to the area if this plan is not approved?

LA:  Oh, I think it’s going to continue to deteriorate.  I was first elected to the Council in 1985.  Since then we have talked about how this area needed upgrading.  And now, suddenly, we have a chance and we can do it.  And if we do it, it will make the area a much nicer place to live in.  It will be a place that will have more than just one retailer, but hopefully boutiques and a variety of other businesses.  If the plan is not approved, it’s just going to continue to get worse.  Developers will get the message that Arvada is not open for business.  We do not have to look far for examples of this type of reaction from the business community.

Arvada Plaza lots today

Arvada Plaza lots today

CLRC:  Do you think another offer will be coming down the road if we turn this one down?  Some people are saying we should wait for a better offer. 

LA:  Our options are very limited.  At one time, Safeway was very interested in the site. However, Safeway has lost market share in Colorado and does not seem to be interested in this area.  We can’t have another Target because Target is too close.  We can’t have another Kmart.  We can’t have another King Soopers.  Albertsons went out of business in this area years ago.  The Urban Land Institute (ULI) did a study of the area a few years ago and said that this area was suited for a grocery-type anchor because of its size and its location in the metropolitan area.  Walmart has come forward to be the anchor for more redevelopment. 

I’d love to have a Macy’s.  I tell everybody I want a Macy’s.  But we are not going to get a Macy’s.  This area is not big enough for a Macy’s and we don’t have the kind of high-volume arterial streets that Macy’s wants to see before they invest in a store here.  

CLRC:  There’s a concern that if the Council turns this plan down, it will be considered a ‘taking’ under Colorado law and the City may have to compensate IRG for its loss. 

LA:  The only thing that is coming before the City is the development plan.  And the City cannot choose between commercial organizations that could develop it.  They can’t say, “Oh, we don’t want Walmart.  We want a Target instead.” for instance.  You just cannot do that.  The City has to be neutral on who the business owner is.  

CLRC:  Is that because the City approved the Outline Development Plan (ODP) and the ODP allows for this kind of use?

LA:  Yes.  But it is more than that.  You know, this has been a commercially zoned area for as long as I can remember.  The City does have certain rights.  It can certainly tell the developer how and where they want the building, and what it should look like and what the traffic patterns should be.  The City can demand all of those things from the developer.  But they cannot turn down a development because of name of the development. 

CLRC:  There are concerns that Walmart is a low-end retailer and may only encourage other low-end businesses to come to the area.  Do you have that concern? 

LA:  I think it will bring in complementary businesses.  And when you bring people into an area, then you have businesses that want to locate where those people are, because they will use that as a way to build their business.  If this area is not redeveloped now, it will continue to deteriorate.  Frankly, I don’t know how much worse it could get. 

CLRC:  What about increased traffic on Ralston Road, especially east of the Triangle, and on Independence too?

LA:   Independence is a collector street for neighborhood traffic, which means that people in that neighborhood will use it to come to Walmart.  There is no doubt about that.  But Independence will not be carrying traffic from elsewhere.  Ralston Road will be the main arterial to the development, and Ralston Road — even though it’s narrow — has carried far more traffic in the past than it is carrying today.  In part that’s because there’s not as many people going to this shopping center, but also because of the opening of 72nd Avenue.

When 72nd Avenue opened up, it moved a lot of traffic off of Ralston Road for people wanting to go to and from the west.  And so the traffic counts on Ralston Road are down, and the road can handle much more traffic than it does now.  And, quite frankly, I’m hoping the City will make improvements to Ralston Road that will make it function better than it does today. 

CLRC:  Isn’t that a long-term project?

LA:  There are some interim fixes the City could do, and they just haven’t done those.

CLRC:  Such as?

LA:  [laughing] I want a traffic light so I can walk across Ralston Road without being in fear of losing my life when I go to the dentist. 

You know, there is an opportunity to do the sidewalks now. There are also some places along Ralston Road where there are current businesses.  You are not going to get those to change very easily.  But certainly the wider sidewalks along Wolff Park and the wider sidewalk along the new Ralston Central Park will make Ralston Road look wider and more inviting.  And, you know, there is the thought that a two-lane road in each direction with turn lanes will work at least as efficiently as what we have today.   But I leave that for the traffic engineers.

CLRC:  Regarding Walmart’s labor practices, do you think there is a difference between them and Kmart and Target’s labor practices, or do you think that is just rhetoric? 

LA:  I think there are many groups that do not like Walmart.  And I think they use rhetoric to make their point.  Now, somebody once said to me, “Well, gee whiz, it’s just part-time jobs.”  Well I have to tell you, there are a lot of people who would love to have a part-time job.  So I think it is a way of providing jobs for those who want to work there. 

Walmart strikers, staff and shoppers at last year's Black Friday sale

Walmart strikers, staff and shoppers at last year’s Black Friday sale

And if Walmart is not obeying minimum wage laws and things like that, there are certainly ways to take care of that.  This week I saw that they were pouring stuff down sewers they shouldn’t have and they were fined for it — as well they should be.  In the same way, if their labor practices aren’t up to snuff then their employees should complain to the National Labor Relations Board. 

CLRC:  Do you think Walmart offers benefits comparable to other retail employers?

LA:  It works the way a free-market place should work.  The difference is that they’re bigger.  Well, I don’t know.  Target is pretty big locally as well. 

CLRC:  As an advocate for this neighborhood for 30 years, do you have a vision for this project or anything else to add?

LA:  I think this is going to clean up our neighborhood.  By doing this project, the City will have enough tax increment financing to provide some amenities to this neighborhood.  I think that is the greatest part of this whole project.  The tax increment should help build a new neighborhood. 

There is one other thing to remember:  Right now there are people in our neighborhoods who already shop at Walmart — only they drive to Westminster, Wheat Ridge and Lakeside to do that.  With this project they can keep their tax money at home and have the City spend it on amenities for their neighborhood.

FOLLOW UP

In addition to this interview, Ms Anderson also sent this email to be included in the interview notes:

“Mayor Nancy McNally of Westminster tells me what a great corporate citizen Walmart has been.  They donate regularly to the community by providing toys and school supplies for low income children, plus much more.  I might also point out that there is a great loss in sales tax revenue for the City of Arvada by our citizens that choose to shop [at] Walmart in Westminster, Wheat Ridge, and now [in] the town of Lakeside.”

“Also, the issue of IRG and Walmart is a property right issue.  The property is zoned for business.  Since it is a Planned Development, the city can only approve the development plan.  They cannot choose between Walmart and another retailer without running into a constitutional issue.  Property rights are guaranteed by [the ‘Takings Clause’ of] the Fifth Amendment.  People seem to be forgetting that important part.

“If I remember correctly, 5000 vehicle trips a day on an arterial street is not much.  I do like your suggestion about adding two feet for easier maneuverability.”

PHOTO CREDITS

The Walmart storefront photo is from the AP and was taken from a Huffington Post article at

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/27/low-wage-retail-workers_n_2194057.html

The development plan photo was taken from ArvadaTriangle.org and provided to them by PACLAN development consultant services.

WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE

AURA has a website with lots of information and links to the latest Preliminary Development Plan files at

ArvadaTriangle.org

The site also has a “Notify Me” link to receive further notifications from the City.

The next public hearing — and possibly the last for this application — is scheduled to be held on July 15, 2013 at City Hall.  The room is expected to be crowded.  Follow this link for more information:

https://arvada.org/about-arvada/irgwalmart-application-set-for-city-council-july-15-2013

You can read our first (and lengthy) Walmart article by clicking on this link:

https://ralstoncommunity.org/2013/01/09/finally-the-triangle-gets-a-redevelopment-offer-walmart-proposes-a-supercenter-neighborhood-rec-centerpool-gets-a-boost/

The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community regularly posts neighborhood information on its website at http://www.ralstoncommunity.org/ as it becomes available. Or you can friend us on Facebook. Our Facebook name is “CLRC Arvada”.

John Kiljan, CLRC Notes: 303-423-9875 or jpkiljan@yahoo.com

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s