(Morgantown) Wal-Mart Must Choose: Smart or Sprawl?
Morgantown is in the midst of a battle between David and Goliath. A
well-known retail chain is building a superstore on the outskirts of town. The anchor
store in the nearby Mountaineer Mall, which rejuvenated the facility in the early 1990s
and prevented it from being abandoned, may be forced to close down due to the arrival of a
new Goliath. Will the existing shopping center win out? Or will a superstore and its
associated suburban sprawl take over?
It doesn't matter from the stores' perspective -- both are Wal-Marts.
In the early 1990s, Wal-Mart sought an ideal location for a new store in northern West
Virginia. The company went the smart-growth route, choosing one of three closed
anchor-store locations at the declining Mountaineer Mall in Morgantown. The mall was
fading but the arrival of Wal-Mart helped turn it around -- without requiring any
additional parking, without destroying any green spaces and without pushing development to
the outskirts of town.
Currently, Morgantown's residents are able to enjoy all the benefits of having a
Wal-Mart in town, without the accompanying problems posed when a store is located on the
suburban fringe. The surrounding mall's amenities allow shoppers to handle many errands at
once, reducing the need for multiple trips.
The Wal-Mart at Mountaineer Mall demonstrates that even Wal-Marts can be good for the
economy and environment of a region -- so long as the developers focus on smart-growth
approaches when locating and building the stores.
Hopefully, Wal-Mart will learn from its own "best practices" and concentrate
its development efforts at existing retail locations, instead of creating more sprawl.
(Morgantown) Big-Box Pushes for New Road
Unfortunately, Wal-Mart has proposed a new project in West Virginia that would erase
its laudable revitalization of Mountaineer Mall. This time, almost 10 years later,
Wal-Mart is back in the Morgantown market with plans to build a brand new superstore on
the outskirts of town.
No Place for a Wal-Mart: Protesters stand their
ground near the open space that Wal-Mart is proposing to develop in Morgantown, W.V.
The environmental damages alone are staggering. As currently planned, the new
store would gobble up open spaces, fill in a wetland and destroy a Native American burial
site. Severe transportation problems add to the impacts. If the Wal-Mart were built, the
already heavy traffic at eight intersections surrounding the area would be made worse.
Wal-Mart supporters argue that traffic problems are easily resolved: Build a new,
incredibly expensive four-lane expressway with a special access road for the store.