Archive for Monday, February 23, 2004

Lawrence just one battleground in nationwide fight

February 23, 2004


It is the world's largest company and America's top private employer.

Analysts say it saved U.S. consumers $20 billion last year in its stores alone and an additional $100 billion by forcing other retailers to slash prices to compete.

But as Wal-Mart stores continue to spread across the nation, community opposition is mounting from critics who say its "always low prices" mean always low wages for nonunion workers and that its famous "rollbacks" on goods roll over local businesses and economies.

Perhaps the largest legal battleground is California, where the retail giant is being stopped by lawsuits in efforts to build several dozen grocery/retail superstores.

A similar battle is being fought in Lawrence.

In August 2002, Wal-Mart proposed a supercenter that would have occupied 190,000 square feet, plus 9,000 square feet more for an outdoor garden center, at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.

The proposed supercenter was to include a full-service grocery store and eventually be open 24 hours a day.

Opponents strongly criticized the size, along with the development's possible effects on traffic, downtown businesses and nearby Free State High School. The planning commission rejected that plan. Wal-Mart returned with a smaller proposed store.

Since then, the city of Lawrence has placed a moratorium on construction at the site, refusing to issue building permits for a Wal-Mart store and a smaller, unidentified restaurant planned for the corner. 6Wak Land Investments LLC and Wal-Mart have filed several lawsuits against the city in the matter, which are pending.

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