Big Box Woes in Postal Decatur: Take a Lesson from Sandy Springs

Okay, I know it stings but it’s good medicine. So temper it with a little sugar and suck it up.

For those outside our city borders who still consider themselves a part of the Decatur community, this morning’s AJC features a fine instructive example of what should have happened prior to our latest Walmart dust-up at Suburban Plaza.

In short, circulating rumors of the big box giant’s arrival in Sandy Springs’ downtown mixed-use district — no development proposal, mind you, or even validated interest, just floating possibilities — got people questioning: “Hmmmmm. We have a vision for what we want that area to become. I wonder if our zoning regulations ensure that’s what we’ll get.”

Turns out they don’t, so the city proactively dropped a 90-day moratorium on land-use petitions to allow enough time to “put its ordinances in line with its land-use plan for downtown.”

Well, howzabout that. Seems so much simpler than what happened here, and that’s for some very specific reasons:

1. Pro-action vs. re-action. Sandy Springs has two things going for it. First, they took the time to develop a vision for what they do want in that area, as opposed to just what they don’t want. Then, prior to any actual proposal or threat, they took the time to compare that vision with the likely outcomes mandated by their ordinances.

2. Political support. Unified concerns of over 4,000 surrounding homeowners were brought before city government at a time when change was still a viable option. Why? Because residents were invested in the city’s vision and wanted to ensure its protection. That gave them something to fight for, rather than against.

3. Human-scaled, responsive government. Now that they’re out from under the shadow of monolithic and frequently dysfunctional Fulton County government, Sandy Springs has the access and flexibility to respond quickly, in a meaningful way.

In that context, what happened with Suburban Plaza was indeed a fiasco and I propose that essentially all future development and re-development on surrounding parcels will occur in a similar fashion. Unless. Unless our brothers-and-sisters-in-postal-distribution take this time now to stop it from happening again. Of course, doing so will be hard. The question is, will it be worth it? If so, here’s how:

First, stop demonizing property owners for building what their zoning tells them to build. People have a right to avoid unnecessary hassles and make money, especially when our laws tell them specifically how we want them to do so. Next, organize. A critical mass of neighbors (read: voters) is necessary for any political will to materialize. Then, once you’re speaking from a position of strength, petition DeKalb leadership for meaningful efforts. Have them lead a visioning process, inclusive of property owners and development interests, to come up with a flexible land-use vision that everyone can benefit from and that doesn’t infringe on any one stakeholder’s existing rights. Then, once you have it, don’t stop until it’s codified in specific detail.

Dang, that does sound like a lot of work. Maybe that’s why it happens so infrequently. Who’s up for the task?

54 thoughts on “Big Box Woes in Postal Decatur: Take a Lesson from Sandy Springs”


  1. I saw that article hours ago and I was beginning to wonder if you were gonna post it…

    I do want to point out one (although there are others) important distinction between Suburban Plaza and Sandy Springs. Sandy Springs is opposed to ALL big box retailers in their downtown. That wasn’t entirely the case here. People were openly advocating for Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods or Target. The opposition was to Wal Mart. If the county wants (or will allow) big box retailers at Suburban Plaza, they can’t discriminate against specific retailers.

    1. A good point, DawgFan, and one that exists because Sandy Springs developed a shared vision for what they wanted. Not one that was arbitrarily punitive but one based on size, scale and use in the best interest of the area. Also, at Suburban Plaza, it was *some* people advocating for TJs, WFs, etc., which is another problem. Until the surrounding community can collectively identify what they generally all agree they want, they won’t be able to effect any meaningful reform.

      As I said, Sandy Springs is not a comparable example. It’s an instructive one.

  2. Wow, DM. Are we really going to create some kind of OTP/ITP snobbery on this blog? Postal Decatur? You are kidding, right? It remains to be seen whether the Walmart will be a good or bad thing. A more vibrant Suburban Plaza would be a win and if you don’t want to shop at Walmart, well, don’t. I wonder if the url postaldecaturmetro.com is taken… We better not see any of you ITP-ers at Melton’s on Kids Eat Free night. 🙂

    1. Snobbery has nothing to do with it, Michael. It’s the entire basis for what happened with Suburban Plaza because folks outside the city line must content with DeKalb County government rather than Decatur city government. Without making the distinction in governance, it’s impossible to discuss how to handle the issue.

      Reread the post. It’s not about stopping Walmart. It’s about people having a say in their community and being able to get what they want. I don’t have an opinion on what that should be. It’s up to them.

      1. I was just trying to raise the point that the concerns of “Postal Decatur” are largely the same as “Decatur Metro.” I don’t see how Sandy Springs stopping a Walmart in their “Downtown” compares to Walmart coming to an area that Decaturites refused to support annexation of a couple of years ago. I am hoping we will get a revitalized Suburban Plaza out of the deal and everyone will just ignore the 800-lb. retail gorilla anchor tenant.

        1. I’m with you, Michael, and it doesn’t surprise me a bit that both areas have similar concerns and goals. What’s different, and what I tried to make clear, is the political context. Because of the scope and scale of DeKalb County, getting to an enforceable vision for growth outside Decatur’s borders is a different endeavor than inside. There’s no judgement. It just is what it is.

          Maybe folks don’t want a shared vision. That’s among their options too and no skin off my teeth. But if they do, there are certain paths to results. Context matters.

          1. “Postal Decatur” makes us seem like we are just a little over-stressed and ready to snap. Most residents call us Medlock.

  3. Suburban Plaza doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is surrounded by monolithic structures (DeKalb MC), car dealerships, both closed and open and strip malls. It isn’t exactly virgin forest being cut down for the store.
    This brouhaha has everything to do with Evil WalMart and little to do with preserving precious Decatur.

    1. You stole my other point. Even if Dekalb were to revise its comprehensive plan (and align its plan with Decatur’s), wouldn’t Suburban Plaza still be a good spot for big box retail? It is within (albeit on the edge) of a commercial district and has access to 3 major 4 or 6 lane roads. It certainly makes more sense than downtown Decatur, near Emory, etc.

      Before people start flaming, please note that I did not say it was the best place or that there weren’t other alternatives, which may or may not be better. I am just saying that given the current lay of the land and infrastructure, objectively it is not a bad spot for big box retail.

      1. You’re right, DF. It’s a very good spot. That’s why any process to revise the land use vision would have to include property owners and development interests and stop being about no-this or no-that. Part of folks getting what they want is acknowledging that a lot of different people, with different needs and goals, have a stake in the outcome. Once anyone starts laying out all or nothing propositions, common ground starts fading away.

        1. I am a strong “neighborhood advocate”. It can be fun to always say no, (is anyone in Congress listening to this) but stating what you are for, is a much more effective method of guiding community development to a desirable end. I think that is why all the planning we did in Decatur over the past 25 years (or has it been more) has been so effective.

  4. It is amazing how many people like to impose personal thoughts on Private Property. I have been in development for most of my professional life and have also lived in Decatur for the past 10 years. The community is wonderful but the people are way too involved in everyone’s business. That is good and bad but when it comes to some development or property rights often times mob rules should not apply. When you review the Suburban Plaza site (as referenced before and in other posts) it is a big box site already, It has the zoning as well as access and proximity to highways it needs. This site has had the need for someone to come and breath life back into for many years. While Wal-Mart may not be the ultra-cool box that everyone wants it is one that works and likely supports the demographic study that was surely done by the current development team

    This development will be used by all that surround it (admitted or not) it will provide job, it will help foster new customers to many of the other surrounding business and will help to clean up the area as a whole. I don’t understand why people keep kicking the dead horse (that is Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s (they are not coming people) each of their corporate offices have issued letter stating that they are not and to leave them alone). Be happy that people want to invest money in a community. In times like this where it is next to impossible to move forward with deals one of this scale is a huge positive.

    The owners should have the right to develop it, they have done what I believe is right by the neighborhoods and met with them. They have made modifications to their plans at the request of those neighbors and I believe have worked in good faith. The ideal of passing more and more layers of approvals or reviews are nearing the levels of lunacy. Decatur as well as DeKalb have so many regulations and limitations on private property it has moved many people away from them. The reasons Decatur is the way it is today is because of that investment and interest in development. Do you truly believe that places like the Brick Store Pub, Leons, 246, Cakes & Ale along with all of the great shops and restaurants would be there were it not for the condo’s, neighborhoods and shopping centers that have been developed in the City limits. All of this came at a cost and at a compromise but all did come through development teams like the ones trying to improve places like Suburban Plaza.

    I am tired of typing now so will get off my soap box but people need to realize you do not own it and how mad would you be if I stopped you from doing something in your own yard. I would bet those people who have renovated their homes or managed a project within the city understand what I am talking about and also understand how challenging things have become. We need to support projects like this as well as the in-site and success that our city officials have pulled off. They are all working in our best interest and I think have done a hell of a job.

    1. These are very important points and yet more reason for communities to develop a vision for what their community is and is going to be. For the anti-big-box crowd, I’d like to point out that Suburban plaza was home to Belk department store after it left Downtown Decatur. Suburban Plaza was built to hold an anchor store of the big box variety.

      Personally, I’d like to see more national retailers in downtown Decatur. An urban Gap or even Old Navy would act as an anchor store for our “mallternative” bringing more shoppers into our area.

      The key here is to have effective and well thought out zoning laws that enable growth within the confines of a pre-established vision. I don’t like the idea of eliminating a development possibility just because the tenant will be a large, national chain. Many of these store began life as a downtown anchor store and could be one again if only we encourage it.

  5. Is anyone watching what Walmart’s up to? Walmart Labs? Getting (more) involved in health care? I’m sure this all sounds like They Are Up To No Good shenanigans but I really am curious about how they are reinventing themselves and what Suburban Plaza Walmart will be the future. Walmart is nothing if not nimble. The heiress recently opened a big museum, no? I think Walmart is cut of the same wool as the robber barons: if you live in their generation, they are despicable; 100 years later, they are philanthropists and your kid’s applying to one of their universities.

    1. Last I heard, they were putting the finishing touches on their plot to take over the world! Suburban Plaza was the last piece they needed, so we are now powerless to stop them.

      🙂

    2. They better end up philanthropists. The six Walton heirs have the same wealth as the bottom 30% of the country.

      1. re: “They better end up philanthropists. The six Walton heirs have the same wealth as the bottom 30% of the country.”

        If you have $0 debt and $1, you have more wealth than the bottom 25% of the country.

  6. DeKalb County, with an endorsement letter from the City of Decatur, has submitted a Livable Center Initiative application to ARC for a study area that includes Suburban Plaza, North DeKalb Mall, DeKalb Medical Hospital and nearby properties. ARC will determine the LCI winners in March. The study area includes the Scott Boulevard corridor from Medlock to slightly past North DeKalb Mall; Church Street outside of the Decatur limits; North Decatur Road from Medlock to DeKalb Industrial and DeKalb Industrial from the the DeVry property to Scott Boulevard.

    The application is for a land use and transporation plan that recognizes the need to adapt the area from a suburban auto oriented community of the 1960’s to a mixed-use area with multiple modes of transportation. The land use plan that evolves from this study will provide the basis for new zoning in and around Suburban Plaza. Marta and Cliff currently serve the area. The proposed Clifton light rail line extends through the study area with potential stops at Suburban Plaza, DeKalb Medical and DeKalb Industrial. There are significant potential cycling links: extending Decatur planned bike lanes along Church, possibly connecting North DeKalb Mall to the Medlock trail that in turn connects with Mason Mill, Emory/CDC and a potential bike lane along DeKalb Industrial to the Stone Mountain PATH. In addition, planning is needed to adapt the area for senior living near existing medical facilities and shopping. Finally there is a need to develop an economic development plan to redevelop the 36 acres of greyfields left by the abandoned car dealerships as well as other underutilized land.

    1. Wow. From blog post to results in 3 hours. Now that’s efficiency! 🙂

      Seriously, this is great news, Davis. Thanks for providing. This is exactly what the area needs, if development and redevelopment are to move beyond the realm of battle after battle.

      So long as DeKalb County lands the grant, the process is inclusive of the primary landowners and acknowledges their right to develop and make money, and prioritizes pursuit of benefit across all stakeholders, it will be a huge leap forward.

      Plus, I know ARC has been looking at the possibility of requiring Livable Center results to be codified for implementation. That would be the icing on the cake.

      Again, thanks for the update.

    2. Awesome news! I understand the ARC makes these decisions but given this is a competition; is there any way to “lobby” for this particular proposal?

  7. It is not ours to judge based on people’s net worth or even if they choose to be philanthropic. This country was built by families and companies that were not always the most popular. You do not typically reach heights like that by being the most popular or doing what everyone wants you to do. With a combined fortune of more than $90 billion, the Walton’s–the immediate heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton–are the richest family in the world. Five of the country’s ten richest individuals are members of Sam’s immediate family: his wife, Helen, and their three surviving children–Rob, Jim and Alice–as well as his late son John’s widow, Christy (John Walton died in June when his private plane crashed).

    That said the Wal-Mart foundation have committed to $2 billion dollars though 2015 to alleviate hunger around the U.S. In addition many other organizations receive millions of dollars each year from their foundations. Regardless of someone’s wealth we who are we to say they should give it away or not. The company is a “Provider” regardless if you like them or not. I believe in the support of those in need but quite honestly I could turn this into another conversation about countless people who sit with their hands out and a strong perception of entitlement.

    All of that should not be part of this debate, The discussion of the company’s morals, goals or philanthropic ideals have little input in the re-development of this property. Again it falls back to the team looking to improve an existing development, providing jobs as well as goods and services that the community as a whole will benefit from.

    1. “Regardless of someone’s wealth we who are we to say they should give it away or not.”

      Hmmm. Well, I’m going to go ahead and nominate myself for this job. If nearly $100 billion is concentrated in the hands of a few members of a single family – more than one’s grandkids grandkids could ever hope to spend – then I expect those folks to be charitable. Really, really charitable. What else are you going to do with it? Certainly you may choose to gold plate your yacht, but if you do, and to the exclusion of philanthropy, then I sit in judgement of you. Judge. Judgey-judge judge. I think it makes you a bad person. And to be clear, I’m not saying that’s the case with the Walton family. Just answering the question posed. I judge.

      1. Where do you draw the line? What level of giving is “really, really charitable”? Why do you get to decide? What if they give it to charities that you deem unworthy? It isn’t your money, so you don’t get a say in how it is spent. Their foundations give away billions. Why do you get to don’t sit in judgment as to whether that is enough?

        If I give less to charity to you, does that make me a bad person? If I give more, are you a bad person?

        Just food for thought.

        1. Certainly there is nuance to be considered. There are limits and reason to factor into the equation. I suppose I draw the line somewhere before billions of dollars of wealth. Respectfully, if you have a billion dollars (Congratulations! I hear there’s a community garden that’s taking donations.) and you give less to charity than I do, then yes, I’m afraid it does make you a bad person. Since I am doubtful that you do have a billion dollars (Uncongratulations!), you may be A-okay!

          1. Still working on the first billion unfortunately…

            If a million people factored in the nuances of what amount of money a billionaire should give away, there would probably be close to a million different answers. Although we are each entitled to our own opinion, I don’t think it would be fair to categorize someone a bad person because in one’s analysis and opinion, he/she should give more.

            Besides, everyone applauded Steve Jobs and his “gifts to humanity”, and he may the biggest tightwad of them all. He eliminated Apple’s philanthropry/corporate giving department, and Apple made $14 billion last year. He is adored, and all he did was make cool toys. Gates gives away most of his wealth, but people still stand in lines for hours when an new Apple product is released.

            1. Not all of us think Steve Jobs hung the moon. The press makes it seem to be the case, but it’s not.

              You don’t think it’s fair to judge a person’s character based on their charitable giving. I accept that as a valid opinion but I’m curious: what, in your view, does constitute a fair basis for thinking whether or not someone is a good or bad person? This is not a baited question, I’m genuinely curious.

              1. What I was trying to say was that we all have different opinions about what level of giving would make someone a good or bad person. Again, I don’t understand how someone could classify someone else who gives away billions of dollars as a bad person because they don’t think it is enough. Just my opinion. You are certainly entitled to yours.

                1. I certainly didn’t mean to pick a fight with anyone or be particularly controversial. For the record, I was just responding to what struck me as the idea that there is no amount of wealth one might attain that morally obligates that person to be philanthropic at any level; that they need not give any at all to charity if they choose not to do so. It was not my intention to argue that giving “billions” away might not be “enough”.

                  Of course, it’s true that a person with extreme wealth doesn’t “have to” give any of it away. They can choose to keep it all without giving a thought to those far less fortunate. And I can choose to believe that represents a significant character flaw. Someone else, in turn, is free to feel that it is wrong of me to pass such a judgement. That’s all. This has been an interesting conversation, if not really in keeping with the original post.

            2. I must have missed the part where SJ was lauded for his “gifts to humanity”. I think most people would agree that Jobs had serious shortcomings on a personal level. What few will deny is that he was a technological visionary of the first order. We may not see his equal for decades.

              I admire Steve Jobs… just wouldn’t want to work for him. 🙂

      2. I’m glad you said this. I judge too. That doesn’t change anything legally but I’m free to judge. No one individual, not even Ghandi, Mother Teresa, MLK, Darwin, Einstein, Shakespeare, Bach, Leonardo Da Vinci, did something so truly great that they deserve an absurdly high proportion of the world’s wealth. In talking to my children about values, ethics, humanity, character, success, et al, I never mention extreme wealth as something they deserve if they do real well. So if one is lucky enough to be born into extreme wealth or earn it with hard work, gratefulness and sharing is in order. And even if one doesn’t care about the injustice of extreme wealth when some folks have undeserved extreme poverty and suffering (yeah I know some folks feel entitled–rich, poor, and in between), it’s just not a good situation strategically. Extremes in wealth + rising expectations = revolutions according to my college history 101 course.

      3. What InStitches said. Over and over.

        Yes, if you come by your wealth honestly, then it’s yours to do with as you will. But if you aren’t moved to share it with those in need, then the rest of us are free to think less of you. Seems like so many people had rather see thousands starve than risk feeding one who might not deserve it.

        Interesting article in this morning’s NYT about economic mobility and inequality. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/05/us/harder-for-americans-to-rise-from-lower-rungs.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper

        1. “Seems like so many people had rather see thousands starve than risk feeding one who might not deserve it.”

          I am going to remember this line. It really captures that social perspective.

          (If it’s a famous quote that everyone else learned in high school, then color me embarrassed and oh well. At least I learned something else on DM.)

  8. Good stuff here from everyone. Just-For-Thought…word. Scott – whomever’s vision previals – will it be economically viable and feasible? That is -can we persuade anyone to invest lots and lots of their money in your vision (or our vision)? We could surely round up 5000 people who would agree that we all want mom&pop business there, more trees, fewer 50′ lamposts and brick pavers…but who’s paying?

    And, unrelated to Scott’s points, but following on J-F-T’s post; Walmart won’t be competing with anything in Decatur as far as I can tell. Groceries…nearest equivalent is Publix at Emory. (Baby Kroger in downtown Dec exists much as a convenience store and is selling a different product.) Office supplies? We currently have to drive all the way to LaVista Rd. to get em. Clothes?…WalMart isnt going to compete with Squash Blossom. So, maybe 80% of what WalMarts sells isnt even available in the immediate area. Cheers

    1. Good question, Tombo, and the principal reason why it’s so important that the process include the landowners and development community. There is no value to pie-in-the-sky wish-list making by surrounding neighbors if it’s not tempered by economic realities and the very real concerns of those with skin in the game. There has to be a process of push-back on both sides to find the equitable common ground.

      That said, when neighbors start talking about walkability, neighborhood-scaled retail, transit, and other things associated with human-scaled development patterns, it very often raises profit potential dramatically. The caveat is that it typically requires landowners to move away from the easy, comfortable models they’re used to. Some are very willing to make that leap. Others would rather not. But you never know until you start talking.

    2. Pretty sure the owners of Intown Hardware and the North Decatur Kroger about half a mile away would disagree with that statement Tombo. Pet supermarket, as well (no big fan of theirs right now), And Walmart cannot offer what Last Chance delivers, and its fabric selection won’t come close to Hancock’s. Tucker and Memorial Drive are not that far to drive for a Walmart run. Glad to hear of the LCI. The loss of all those car dealerships presents a great opportunity to remake that area.

      1. Thank you for that. I guess that is why I really hate big box stores or what I will call the “Walmartization” of any community. (Personal disclosure: my grandfather owned a very successful small pharmacy for many years. It eventually could not compete with the CVS’s of the world. ) My granddads store was a true neighborhood gathering place where something more important than impersonal business transactions occurred. The prices may have been a little higher, but the service was so much better than CVS. So we may (or may not) gain an economic benefit from a big box store. But we become much poorer.

      2. From the Decatur Heights Walmart/Selig meeting:
        “Dave Jones of Intown Hardware stands up, gives name, gets applause from audience.
        Says the revamp of the shopping center probably would be good for everybody, including his business.”

        1. Well, he might be deluding himself. I hope I am wrong. Intown is more of a boutique now anyway. Maybe when they can’t find what they are looking for at Walmart and the clerks have no idea what they are asking for. I know Home Depot has made me appreciate my local hardware store that much more.

          1. Why didn’t Home Depot kill all the local hardware stores? If Home Depot couldn’t kill them, why will Walmart?

        2. Have you talked to him since that meeting? I have a feeling that the arrogance and lies of the representatives of Walmart and Selig, combined with their aggression toward people asking questions may have changed his mind.

          1. Being as how Dave Jones had his picture taken with Bill Stogner after the meeting, I’m thinking he’s pretty good with his own take on things.

  9. An example of not sending folks with experience to the table, rather than those who were surprised by the action of Selig. If Decatur had had the cooperation the Pinehurst/Bridgewood community, this would not have happened because it would have been annexed by the city. Unintended consequences playing out

  10. But big boxes are a choice that a community can make. I’ve seen both extremes. Santa Barbara, Calif., allows none — not even full-size supermarkets. As a result, a lot of its residents drive 30 miles to Ventura to do the bulk of their shopping. It means Santa Barbara is uniformly gorgeous, but there’s no employment for people on the bottom rung. Lilburn, on the other hand, let the big boxes run rampant, and now that the focus of development in Gwinnett has moved on to Buford, it’s left with a vast and unfillable collection of empty cinderblock shells surrounded by deteriorating parking lots. The resulting blight has made the city less appealing and has driven down property values. Boulder, Colo., has taken the middle course, allowing the big retailers, but under very stringent conditions concerning architecture, parking and traffic volume. Those that choose to comply, it welcomes. Those that don’t, including Walmart, go elsewhere. Yes, politics inform the standards — Boulder is green and believes it has a responsibility to take measures to fight global warming — but the standards themselves reflect community values. Seems like that’s what Decatur should strive for, and has. But little Decatur will never have the influence on DeKalb County’s building standards that Boulder has on those of Boulder County, where it represents a third of the population. So we’re left with little option but to simply oppose big boxes within a certain radius of the city limits.

  11. and i quote, ‘For those outside our city borders who still consider themselves a part of the Decatur community…”.

    maybe if the word ‘still’ hadn’t been used? maybe ‘our’ and ‘still’ together pushed me over the edge? whatever it was—i’m pretty sure it hits me the wrong way.

    and i don’t think an explanation from the author that it was a poor or hasty choice of words will make me feel any better about it.

    :- |

    1. Okay, good, because it wasn’t a poor or hasty choice of words. It was written that way to reflect the diversity of discussion on the topic that’s happened here on DM over the past couple of years.

      In the course of that time, it’s become clear that people around here maintain many measures for whether or not they consider themselves part of Decatur — the strict sense (i.e. the borders where Decatur government stops); the emotional sense (in that they simply *feel* a part of the community); the communal sense, based on activities they’re involved with, the church they belong to, the pubs they frequent, etc.; the historical sense (in that they grew up around these parts); the “postal” sense (in that they write “Decatur” as part of their address); and a bunch of other stuff.

      It’s self-defined and comes down to one’s personal perspective, of which many have been expressed and argued for here on DM. This particular post was speaking to the concerns of people outside Decatur government’s purview who feel a part of Decatur and want to accomplish similar goals (despite their more cumbersome representation). So that’s who I addressed.

      If they feel no connection, who am I to say they should? I’m not gonna speak for anyone. The reader can decide if I was speaking to them.

  12. When I lived outside the city limits, in postal Decatur, I did consider myself part of Decatur in an emotional sense and was happy when I did move into the city of Decatur. I confess that now that I pay the taxes I wonder if it gives me a right to feel just a little snobby?

    Seriously, I love the discussions on Decatur Metro. I do believe that we all (regardless of where in DeKalb) should expect the businesses in our community to be good neighbors. I expect them to treat their employees well, not discriminate, be good to the environment, responsible about how their products are produced, and not leave an empty box to blight our community in the future. Yes, I do expect this. I expect my neighbors to be decent and good citizens and I expect that from myself too. And I will certainly judge them if they do not. And I expect a lot more from those who have more power and more resources. This gives them a unique power to make a positive or negative impact in our community, and in Walmart’s case, the world. As my young children, and all Spiderman lovers, know: “with great power comes great responsibility.”

    On a practical note, I think it is interesting that no one mentions the Walmart on Memorial Drive, just 10 minutes from Decatur Square. I confess that despite my snobbery and moral ideals I have succumbed to the low prices and shopped here. I wonder how many others will now shop at the Medlock Walmart. I wonder if the Memorial Walmart will continue to thrive? I wonder how everyone will feel if a big empty shell is left in this poorer environment. Incidentally, I haven’t noticed any big improvements spurred by the opening of that Walmart.

    I also think it is important to remember we do have the power of where we spend our money, regardless of politics. I did enough holiday spending in Decatur Square to stimulate the national economy and really enjoyed the experience, unlike the mall, big box experiences.

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