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From the start, there was doubt. Walmart wasn’t planning to open a store at the Skyland Town Center, the perpetually in-the-works mega-development at the meeting point of Alabama Avenue and Naylor and Good Hope roads SE, until Mayor Vince Gray issued an ultimatum in 2011: Include a location in his home Ward 7 or forget about the rest of the planned stores in the District. Then, last year, when Walmart threatened to scrap three of its six planned D.C. locations if the city enacted a living-wage law, there was speculation that the company was simply looking for an excuse to can the stores it never really wanted to open in the first place. The entire Skyland project hung in the balance, with its developer saying it would be put on hold unless and until Walmart, the anchor tenant, signed on.
Gray vetoed the living-wage bill and plans for Walmart’s stores were back on, except there was still no lease at Skyland. A year passed. More than 90 percent of the site has been demolished. Still no news on the Walmart lease.
Until today. Gray announced this morning that the Arkansas-based retail Giant has finally signed a lease for Skyland. The project—-planned for over a decade, with $40 million in city investment—-is back on.
And Gray, just 10 days before he leaves office, gets to celebrate a long-awaited economic spark on his home turf. “I am delighted,” he said in a statement, “that Walmart has committed to opening a store in a neighborhood that has been underserved for too long.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery