Walmart will not build two stores in Ward 7, as the company promised to do when negotiating its entrance into the city.
The box-store megachain today announced that it will close 154 locations in the U.S., primarily Walmart Express stores, which were a pilot program. It will also not move forward with plans to build stores at two Ward 7 development sites, Skyland and Capitol Gateway.
“As part of a broad, strategic review of our existing portfolio and pipeline, we’ve concluded opening two additional stores in Washington, D.C. is not viable at this time,” a Walmart spokesperson told the Washington Business Journal. “Our experience over the last three years operating our current stores in D.C. has given us a fuller view on building and operating stores in the District,” the statement, also obtained by the Washington Post, continued. “This decision will not affect our three existing stores and we look forward to continue serving these customers in the future.”
The company has already built stores in Ward 4, on Georgia Avenue NW and near the Fort Totten Metro station, and in Ward 6, on H Street NW.
In 2013, Walmart threatened to cancel plans to build the two Ward 7 stores over the Large Retailer Accountability Act, which would have required the retailer to pay its D.C. employees $12.50 an hour. The bill passed, but was vetoed by then Mayor Vince Gray. The D.C. Council failed to override the veto.
In a statement, Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander says she is “angry” about Walmart’s decision.
“I take this personally as I advocated to bring them to Ward 7,” she continued. “The District had a deal with Walmart to bring in five stores with two coming to Ward 7. They signed leases and now they have broken their deal. This has racial and social-economic discrimination implications. This is a major setback but I am confident that the District will do everything possible to move forward with the projects.”
It’s not yet clear what this news means for the larger Skyland and Capitol Gateway projects. A call to developer Rappaport, which is leading the Skyland development, was not immediately returned. A representative from A&R, which is developing Capitol Gateway with the D.C. Housing Authority, said, “We are not making a statement at this point.”
Update, 3:10 p.m.: A spokesperson for the D.C. Housing Authority says the agency and “its development partner are working with the city to craft a set of next steps. DCHA remains committed to the community as well as to attracting a retail development to the site.” He adds that the area is zoned for a “large format retailer” and that site work is “100 percent complete, including construction of all roads and common area improvements including sidewalks, common area facilities, lighting, storm water management and construction of utilities.”
This story has been updated. It also originally stated that one of D.C.’s Walmart stores is located in Ward 5.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery