To the editor:
The article in Monday's LJW about Wal-Mart's plans to locate at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive centered on two questions: 1) Will a Wal-Mart SuperCenter affect downtown merchants? Of course it will. There are few, if any, retailers downtown who aren't represented by a department in Wal-Mart. From shoes, clothing, prescriptions, books and eyeglasses, the fact remains there are only so many retail dollars in Lawrence and the more spent at one place means less spent somewhere else. Look at the weak downtowns in Columbia and Lincoln, college towns where a Wal-Mart SuperCenter has been built. 2) Is there too much retail space in Lawrence? Of course not. Wal-Mart is a $150 billion company that can locate anywhere in the world there is opportunity. They would not be looking at Lawrence if the market were over-retailed.
That said, I am not against Wal-Mart building a new store in Lawrence, yet I believe the real question is: Why would a city allow a regional retailer to locate in a neighborhood setting next to a high school and swimming pool? Is it not the city that approved building these facilities where they are? Nearby residents can forget about having their children ride their bikes to the pool if Wal-Mart goes in next door. Also, regional shopping traffic and high school drivers mix like drinking and driving.
It is time to tell Wal-Mart to find another location, a location that has or will have the infrastructure to handle the traffic (like Kansas Highway 10 and Sixth Street) and one that will not conflict with neighborhood uses. Remember, wherever Wal-Mart goes, significant retail development will follow.