Grassroots Effort To Keep Walmart Out of The Heights Grows

Walmart officials could have more information this week about a plan to build a SuperCenter near the West End neighborhood in the Heights. Residents there have been hard at work organizing against the plans over the past several weeks, an effort that now has thousands of supporters. Jack Williams reports.
On Facebook, the "Stop the Heights Walmart" page is a popular one these days. More than 5,000 fans posting nearly hourly updates on their efforts to scuttle the retail giant's plans. A Twitter feed has hundreds of followers, and listen to this. It's a YouTube video starring a friendly guy named Burrell.

"Did you know that a SuperCenter adds 10,000 cars in your neighborhood? 10,000 cars. Are you kidding me? Saving money? Living better? I'm going to work now."

The efforts against Walmart's plans to build a 152,000 square foot SuperCenter on 16 acres near Heights Boulevard south of I-10, have been quietly brewing for a few weeks now.

"My name is Colton Candler and I live off of Bonner Street."

Candler's townhome is literally a stone's throw from the huge empty lot that used be home to a steel mill until a few years ago. He says he's not surprised the grassroots effort has grown like it has.

"It's democracy. It's everyone pulling together and trying to get the city to do something about this. I think it's good. I think it shows good community, strong community support. I think that's kind of what's kept the Heights area as it is now. You know what I mean? Everyone wants to come here for a reason. People want to live here for a reason."

Nicolas Urbano is the acting president of Responsible Urban Development for Houston, the group behind the "Stop Walmart in the Heights" effort. He says it's not just about the lights, traffic and possible drainage issues the Walmart could bring.

"There have been a lot of concerns about their affect on import/export rates, their affect on percentages of US-made goods and what they do to small business and how they compensate their employees. From that perspective, no, Walmart is not the most responsible retailer for a choice there."

Mayor Annise Parker says the city's hands are tied when it comes to where businesses can set-up shop.

"I hear very clearly those who give me a reasonable and rational argument on we're worried about drainage. I'm worried about drainage too. We'll hold their feet to the fire about drainage. We're worried about a parking lot that shines lights into our bedroom. I get that. I have to look out at a damn billboard every night that shines lights into my bedroom. I get that. But, we're not going to get into a discussion of should it be target or Walmart or Costco or anybody else."

Walmart didn't return several requests for comment, but has said it could hold a community meeting, possibly on Wednesday, to discuss its plans with residents.

Jack Williams, KUHF News.
Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...