A community divided
By Marie Carrie firstname.lastname@example.org
In case you’ve been out of the loop, the southeast corner of Broward Blvd. and 27th avenue is the subject of much debate in the Fort Lauderdale community.
Wal-Mart, the biggest retailer in the nation, is set to make Fort Lauderdale home. And no matter what side of the political divide you land on, all can agree that being well informed is a must.
Here are the facts: Frank Gatlin, an independent developer, purchased the land right off I-95 with the purpose of bringing a retail supercenter to the West Fort Lauderdale community. The purposed area has been underdeveloped for years. Businesses along its corridor have struggled to keep pace with the changing economic times; and real estate values are at a low.
Currently, the land under consideration contains a piece of property that is zoned residential. In order for Wal-Mart or any other retailer to come in, the zoning needs to be converted from residential to commercial.
While many in the community are proponents of retail expansion, they stand firm in their convictions that the area remain mixed-use (commercial and residential zoning).
Businessman Arlon Kennedy states, “the housing component currently proposed at that site would be a huge shot in the arm to the existing array of small businesses in that area.”
Pam Adams, President of the Midtown Business Association, seconds this opinion with her statement, “I think a mix of uses in that area would be better than just a box store. If it’s a mix of residential and retail and services that people in the area need.”
Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Bobby DuBose disagrees. He states, “The market is not really at a point where there is a boon for residential.” He supports the rezoning of the area for commercial use.
For some, the arrival of Wal-Mart coincides too closely with the revitalization of Sistrunk Blvd.
Three years ago the city approved a huge project to restore Sistrunk and attract business to the area.
Currently a Save-A-Lot and Bank of America have taken up residence on the famed boulevard, with other businesses slated to follow suit.
The question many are asking is if Wal-Mart’s presencewill have a negative impact on their revitalization project.
Speaking for small businesses affected by large retailers like Wal-Mart, former Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner, Carlton Moore states, “You put out the few Black ones that remain in the community. You allow them to be challenged by the big box operator who underprices their product, who underprices their labor and who certainly undermines their entrepreneurial opportunity on the corridor that it took us two decades to turn around.”
Kennedy further illuminates the point by examining the impact Wal-Mart has had in other communities, such as Lauderhill.
Kennedy says, “While I’m sure this had some positive impact on some, for the most part it is probably stifled the development and growth of small businesses in the immediate environs because they simply can’t compete.”
The negative impact on small businesses is not the only concern expressed by members of the community.
Another issue at stake is the influx of low-paying jobs to the area. While there are many who celebrate the numerous employment opportunities that Wal-Mart will provide; others are concerned about the quality of jobs, not just the quantity.
Pam Adams eloquently states, “Are they (future employees) going to make enough money to take care of their families or is it just marginal employment?”
According to various economic studies, Wal-Mart has a reputation for paying minimum wage and limiting work hours to just under the amount necessary to qualify for health benefits.
In addition, research done by Kennedy, highlights the fact that many Wal-Mart employees are forced to take advantage of government subsidy programs to make ends meet.
Despite the reservations and protestations expressed by many, Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Bobby DuBose has found that most of his constituents are in fact in favor of the Wal-Mart Retail Development Project on Broward Blvd.
DuBose describes his political role as thus: “You tell me what you want and I’ll be your microphone to amplify the desires of the residents.” According to DuBose the issue is simple, “The community wants this.”
Clearly the debate over Wal-Mart coming to Fort Lauderdale is far from over.
In the coming months those on both sides of the argument will continue to promote their positions. As focus groups, councils and committees meet, the final decision will ultimately rest in the hands of the Broward County Commission.
If you want to be part of this historic decision, become in-formed, attend the meetings and contact your local representative.
WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price —(see movie teaser trailer on thewestsidegazette.com)