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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Upscale, schmuckscale

PGC Blog has a report on county planners' opposition to expansion of the Bowie Walmart. Many Oxon Hill residents are fighting a proposed Oxon Hill Walmart that is not particularly close to any residential neighborhoods. Council members Toles and Franklin are pushing legislation to override parts of the recently Green Line Station Plan with a mish-mash of confusing rules that will drive out or ban successful businesses that serve the community and probably result in more vacant storefronts.

Despite the fussing from planners and the hypocritical mouthings of elitist NIMBYs, it seems fairly clear that county residents want to shop at Walmart. Leaders in Bowie seem to recognize that simple fact and apparently value the job and tax revenue an expanded Walmart would bring to their community. The elites, on the other hand, have accomplished nothing positive in the way of attracting "upscale" businesses to the area and apparently would rather not have any jobs or tax revenue. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but what do I know?

Decades ago, the county had a number of relatively upscale department stores. Some went out of business (like Woodward & Lothrop and Lansburghs, others just closed, like Landover Mall, but none of the people who bitch and moan about "upscale" and "high-end" have ever managed to replace the stores that are gone with equal or better ones. And unless you believe that the successful business people who run the big chains are all incompetent and/or all racist, there is probably no real market for those stores.

The Blvd was once acclaimed as a start in attracting "upscale" things, but most of the mid-market type stores there failed and closed.

There was a time when I shopped regularly ar Landover Mall and Iverson Mall. Landover Mall is gone--nearly all vacant land adding nothing to the county's economy. I haven't been in Iverson Mall for a couple of years.  Once it had Woodward and Lothrop, a successful Montgomery Ward store, a real book store, and several well-known specialty stores. Next to Iverson Mall, Marlow Heights had a Pier 1, and an Ethan Allen furniture store. Both had Hallmark Gold Crown stores. Now the two centers have a Burlington Coat Factory, a church, one of the crummiest Macy's in the chain, no card or book stores, and a bunch of "downscale" dtores like Forman Mills.  Some folks want to find "upscale" tenants or shut Iverson Mall down, but the mall is fully leased, with no long-term vacancies, and the "downscale" stores seem to be successfully meeting the needs and wants of the community.

Leave the Marlow Heights and Iverson Mall shopping centers and drive around.  You'll see vacant buildings and land where there were recently businesses, as well as several churches (which don't contribute much to the economy) where there were once stores like the Room Store, K-Mart, Grand Union, Hechinger's, etc., that provided jobs and tax revenues.

So what do county residents really want and deserve?  Existing businesses, even "downscale" ones that provide jobs and tax revenue?  Or vacant lands and stores that provide neither jobs nor tax revenues while they wait for the "upscale" stores that are not coming?  And how many of the residents waiting for "upscale" businesses are willing to start or invest their money in such businesses?

Despite what people in the county say, their actions and buying speak far louder than any empty rhetoric and wishful thinking.


  1. Hello, with all due respect the proposed Oxon Hill Walmart location is not a far distance from residents. Also, the main opposition is due to the fact that the Walmart has a proposed location in between both John Hanson Montessori and Oxon Hill High School. That and the proposed entrance to the parking lot is via Clipper Way (Oxon Hill High School's roadway entrance)

    1. When you wrote this comment, Clipper Way was closed and was most definitely NOT the roadway entrance to Oxon Hill High School. Another six months have passed and Clipper Way is still closed and not an entrance to the school.

      The few homes that are close to the Walmart site, as the crow flies, are actually quite a distance away for anyone walking or driving because of fences and street layout. Have you measured the actual travel distance and time to the nearest residences?