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Stop Sprawl
Fall 2000 Sprawl Report

States at a Glance: West Virginia

Wal-Mart Must Choose: Smart or Sprawl?
Big-Box Pushes for New Road

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.

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.

Photo by Jim Sconyers

States at a Glance | Introduction | Resources | Acknowledgments

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