Brightwood Beats Back Walmart

Flickr: Racineur

According to Lydia DePillis at the Washington City Paper, preservationists who wish to stop Walmart from coming to their neighborhood are now trying to throw history in the retailer’s path:

In a classic last-ditch anti-development tactic, the “Brightwood Neighborhood Preservation Association,” headed by Ward 4 Thrives member Verna Collins, has submitted a landmark application for the Car Barn that now sits on the site of the Walmart planned for upper Georgia Avenue.

One of the comments under DePillis’ piece included concerns about gentrification, displacement and the digital divide:

It’s a brilliant move, really. These people are already doing everything they can to price the long-time residents out of the real estate market. So now they’ve banded together to prevent them from having access to cheaply-priced products. In the final stroke of genius, they’re using the digital divide to take advantage of the older, original folks in the neighborhood who probably don’t even realize this fight is happening.

  • Steven Swann

    The question of “who is right” presents a false dichotomy in this case. It suggests that each party is either right or wrong for occupying their respective position in this debate. That is really a matter of conflicting interests among people who value different things relative to presence of Walmart in Brightwood. Whom each of us think should win (whether a Walmart should open there) might be a more useful inquiry. I have my doubts as to the fidelity of obstructionists to values of historic preservation as a motivator, rather than just an 11th hour tactic. I question similarly the idea that pro-Walmart commenters support the idea simply on the basis of lower prices. 

    I think it’s telling that in the comments of those who rail against the effort to block Walmart in Brightwood, the themes of non-residency of critics, slander of the prospective neighborhood location as a “ghetto”, and the “those-people-should-just-take-what-they-can-get” notion are all featured prominently. Not coincidentally, they are among the social perceptions that have nourished and supported Walmart’s growth nationally. Such debates are frequently (and problematically) animated by pseudo-stakeholders on both sides who have much less to gain or lose -and yet have more social, political and economic power to determine outcomes- than the people who would be most affected by such events. 

    While questions and critiques of Walmart’s practices remain relevant and worthy of examination, so too do other interrelated questions about accessible pricing of consumer goods, the availability of employment opportunity, the nature of consumption and the inevitable trade-offs between them– especially as they exist for working class families in a contracted economy. Too often, this kind of discourse is limited to the effects of a potential opening of a single store, which only guarantees that the precarious economic conditions (of which Walmart is more symptom than a cause) will remain untouched.