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Wal-Mart Met With Mixed Reactions

Businesses concerned about the store's potential impact.

An 80,000-square-foot is stirring mixed and sometimes passionate reactions from Rockville City Council members, residents and shop owners.

Construction of the store, at the Pike Center just south of Twinbrook Parkway—and just outside the city limits, would begin as early as fall. The projected completion date is late 2013.

Wal-Mart also is proposing an 118,000-square-foot store in Aspen Hill, with a projected opening in 2013.

The Rockville Pike store would replace existing Pike Center stores, including , and . A restaurant, M&T Bank branch and Jared jewelry store would remain.

With Wal-Mart planned, Stephanie Kavadoy’s family business, Bagel City, did not receive a lease renewal. The bagel shop—a Rockville standard for more than 35 years, learned of the plans via an interview with The Washington Post. Kavadoy said that she fears for the fate of all the surrounding businesses, as well as her own.

"We don't support the Wal-Mart project,” she said. “Small businesses, the Target, Sports Authority, we will all suffer."

The local economy will gain more than it will lose, said Steven Restivo, a Wal-Mart spokesman.

“Our stores are often magnets for growth and development all across the country,” Restivo said. “We’re proud of the contributions we make in communities across the country—from creating jobs and generating tax revenue to helping customers save and contributing to local nonprofits.”

Restivo cited the “Chicago success story,” in which the introduction of a Wal-Mart in a Chicago suburb led to the opening of 22 new businesses and drew residents back to the previously struggling area.

In November, Wal-Mart released the results of a survey, commissioned by the Arkansas-based retailer, in which 66 percent of county residents said they support the store, The Gazette reported.

Kavadoy is skeptical. “I’ve done my homework on this,” she said. "Yeah, the Wal-Mart will create jobs, but the wages are extremely low, and they keep their workers at part time so that they can't receive any benefits."

One thing all sides agree on: The new store would bring an inevitable influx of traffic. According to a pamphlet by the Pike Center’s developer, JBG Rosenfeld, the area already experiences 54,911 vehicles daily, a number expected to increase dramatically with the new development.

“Wal-Mart will have an undeniably bad impact on the surrounding residential communities due to traffic,” Rockville City Councilman Mark Pierzchala said. “I don't think Rockville should try to stop it per se, but try to constrain its size.” 

Much of the concern, Kavadoy said, stems from the sheer magnitude of the Wal-Mart, as well as the additional proposal for a 600-car garage to accommodate the swell of shoppers. “This will bring chaos,” she said. “There is already traffic. They are bringing a monster to the area.”

Finding a new home for Bagel City—a task also facing 12 other soon-to-be-displaced businesses—is proving difficult, Kavadoy said. "We are really sad,” she said. “It will take a lot of money to relocate, and we have to worry, will the next place be demolished as well? We hope the County Council will work hard to help us."

Montgomery County Councilman in a letter sent to the developer in November. The proposed store and a 200- to 250-unit  apartment complex JBG also plans to build on the site doesn't fit in with the county's vision for Rockville Pike, wrote Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac.

In an online forum, County Executive Isiah Leggett made clear that traffic projections would not halt construction plans.

“The owners of Pike Plaza, JBG, would only require a site plan amendment in order to proceed with plans,” Leggett (D) wrote. ”Since the 'envelope' on density and traffic are [sic] already as broad as needed to accommodate current commercial activity on that site, nothing more would be required of that nature to open a Wal-Mart, unless a new traffic study is called for.”

Leggett also addressed (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring, which would require so-called big box stores—with footprints of more than 75,000 square feet—to enter into a community benefits agreement with civic organizations in their neighborhood.

“In its present form, I would veto that legislation should it pass, though I am open to looking at changes in it," Leggett wrote during the online forum. "Among other problems, I am concerned that some of the requirements for 'community' negotiations and approval are vague at best and not legal, at worst.”

Restivo, the Wal-Mart spokesman, remained positive about the venture. “Unfortunately, some of the louder voices in this debate don’t represent the majority opinion,” he said. “This fact is made clear every time we open a new store as thousands of local residents show their support by shopping with us.”

Pierzchala summed up the concerns and benefits of the new store: “There will be thousands of Rockville and Montgomery County residents who will shop there, so they see a value,” he said. “It will put a lower cost alternative on the pike, one with lots of muscle and size, so I think some surrounding merchants also have to worry about it. But that's capitalism; rough and rugged.”

Temperance Blalock January 26, 2012 at 12:54 PM
The Chicago analogy is completely inappropriate to Rockville's location, which is already densely surrounded by financially successful businesses and by affluent residential property. To say that Rockville needs the same type of "rescue" as a failing urban place like suburban Chicago is ridiculous. We also aren't as desperate for those low-paying jobs that Wal-Mart will bring.
Jim Coyle January 26, 2012 at 03:08 PM
The Wlamart spokeman missed a major point about the impact of Walmart on Rockvillke. Rockville will suffer all the negatives associated with Walmart which are numerous as cited butwill not gain $1dollar of sales taxes since Rockville does not receive the sales tax. Why would any government in its right mind support a development that will bring major costs to the City with no sales tax revenue form its operations. I hope the businesses impacted, the Chamber of Commerce, and the City & County governments sue to stop this onerous and foolish development.
Stephanie Kavadoy January 26, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I got interviewed for this article early December, and facts in this article have changed. The Walmart project is on hold right now. In fact, JBG is looking to renew all of the leases of the tenants at the Pike Shopping Center. Bagel City, David's, Cici's, The Office Depot, Goodyear, and Catherine's will all remain at the Pike Shopping Center at least until 2014. JBG is also exercising options to plan other projects since so many people object to have a Walmart on Rockville Pike. Stephanie Kavadoy
alan cohen January 26, 2012 at 03:31 PM
As a long time resident of Montgomery County I strongly oppose the Walmart on the Pike. When the Walmart rep said it will bring 'back' business to the pike, who is he trying to kid. We dont need to bring 'back' business. We have great business now. Walmart will only destroy the small and medium business that we all enjoy and replace with a cookie cutter mega store. He must have been out in the sticks and forgot where he was and what he was talking about. What ever happened the the vision of our esteemed board, of a 'Pedestrian Friendly' Rockville pike?Friendly? More like a very bad headache..It will destroy the future of the area and we will lose much, much more than we ever thought....Stop Walmart.......................
Doug R January 26, 2012 at 05:03 PM
This is the first I've heard to this affect. I hope this is confirmed as ture.
Jim Coyle January 26, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Alan, A pedestrain friendly Pike is a great goal but it will never happen with 30 thousand cars generated by Walmart. Your point about our current mix of businesses is right. Walmart will destroy the nice eclectic and funky mix that we have now and going forward. Many folks don't like the congestion on the Pike but they would not want to give up the current business opportunities for a Walmart.
Sarah Siguenza January 26, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Stephanie is right, this story was written in December and there must have been a delay in posting...and I do apologize for that! I plan on having an updated story out soon. Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it all!
Sean R. Sedam January 26, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Stephanie: Thanks for reaching out. Sarah is working to update where things stand and will circle back with you. Sean
Steve V January 27, 2012 at 04:48 AM
If the update by Stephanie is true, it is still worth it for residents and business owners to continue registering their concerns so that the County Council clearly "hears" the voice of the community. As a resident who lives just west of the Pike, I am loathe to cross to the other side on weekends because of the worsening traffic which Walmart would only exacerbate. In addition, I do not support a store in our community who has so routinely practiced predatory pricing to drive its competitors out of the community. Of broader concern to me, however, is the County Executive and Council's willingness to put so little thought or care toward the negative impact a project like this would have on our community.
Theresa Defino January 27, 2012 at 10:37 AM
Steve--as you may have read, the county executive does but the county council does not support this project but was uncertain how to stop it, given it did not require any special exceptions. The big box bill was one attempt. I testified in favor of this bill and against Wal-Mart at a public hearing in the fall. This story should be pulled.
AntonFisher February 08, 2012 at 01:41 AM
I am excited about the prospects of having Walmart open in Rockville. I hope this happens soon and does not get blocked by the anti capitalism people who oppose Walmart.
Jim Coyle February 08, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Fortunately, it appears that the only support so far is DC Guy and the County Executive. Let's keep havin g the voices of Rockville speak out on this issue.

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