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Can Wal-Mart build different?

On Monday, the news broke that the land on far New York Avenue Northeast once slated for a mixed-use development was now expected to get a Wal-Mart. Listserv chatter since then has been conflicted: Does D.C. really want to host the biggest and boxiest of the U.S.’ bix box stores?

Last night, though, Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas offered hope for something different.

“Everything I have heard, there are other pieces to that puzzle, because it couldn’t just be a Wal-Mart,” Thomas told Housing Complex after one of his town hall meetings. “You’re talking about one big box store on that corner. I don’t think that would fit the needs of the residents. …Whatever it is, I don’t think it’s going to be a traditional Wal-Mart. No one has signed a deal. What I think you have is Wal-Mart being a potential anchor for Wal Mart as a mixed-use development there.”

Thomas also mentioned that there are other contenders for the space, naming Lowe’s as a store that could potentially be interested in coming to the District. But the most critical thing, he admitted, is cash.

“What really matters for us is, who has liquid assets,” Thomas said. “Because what happens is, you gotta be able to pay for it. That’s what happened with Abdo. We were right at the critical point, and couldn’t get the right mix of city dollars and private dollars.”

P.S. –I’m writing about the labor/small business/neighborhood implications of Wal-Mart this week, so if you have any particular knowledge or insight, please get in touch: ldepillis@washingtoncitypaper.com.

Photo via flickr user sebypires.