Wal-Mart At Broad and Washington?

Wal-Mart Chicago

Sources say Wal-Mart, with a corporate strategy to capture the urban market, is exploring a deal for the massive lot at the northeast corner of Broad and Washington owned by a New York real estate firm, and once thought to be a site for a high density, mixed-use project. Wal-Mart has already opened a few stores in Chicago, and a half dozen more are planned there. What’s not at all clear is if the Broad and Washington project would be for a grocery-intensive mini suburban style Wal-Mart, as it appears some of the Chicago stores are, or if it would be part of a more urban, mixed use development, with Wal-Mart as the anchor.

“We’re very aware Wal-Mart is trying to figure out an urban store,” says Philadelphia deputy mayor for planning and economic development Alan Greenberger. “And we want to figure out how to urbanize them. We need to get past the name brand reputation. Yes, there is a lot to fear, but it’s our job to make them good urban citizens.”

Greenberger adds that the value of the land is too high for a low-density, single use suburban style development. That’s good news for those of us who lived through the early 1990s, when Philadelphia was so desperate for private sector development that nearly anything was allowed: a Rite Aid in a Center City historic bank, Rite Aids and Dunkin’ Donuts with surface parking lots on countless busy pedestrian corners, the decimation of key waterfront by big box retailers and their miles of asphalt parking lots, suburban fast food outlets on neighborhood avenues. Detritus, in those days, was the best we could do.

2008 Broad and Washington development looking north toward Center City

The Wal-Mart possibility nevertheless raises enormous questions for a city seeking to leverage its great sites for further community investment. Broad and Washington is, in fact, a terrific opportunity to bring high density uses (which benefit local businesses most of all) to a location rich in transit infrastructure, amenities, schools, and shopping. But Greenberger says that rents there may not be high enough to support a dense, multi-use development. “The market hasn’t quite caught to the location,” he says.

Broad and South, JK Roller Architects

It has found its way to Broad and South, evident in Carl Dranoff’s forthcoming high density, mixed use project there, which Greenberger says will begin in 2012. And what began as a fairly uninteresting project, he says, has turned out to be “pretty sophisticated urban design.”

About the author

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press). He is also the author of Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and The Possible City (Camino Books). He is senior writer and script editor of the Emmy-winning documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine. Popkin's literary criticism appears in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Kenyon Review, and The Millions. He is writer-in-residence of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.



1 Comment


  1. Walmart’s “name brand reputation” is well-earned. We don’t need another low-wage big box store in our neighborhood, killing jobs, destroying local businesses and sucking money out of our city. Whether it’s a supermarket version or not. We need locally owned businesses that keep the money here in our city. Alan Greenberger should know better — you can’t make Walmart a good urban citizen any more than you can make a good cancer.

Trackbacks

  1. Walmart looking at the NW corner of Broad and Washington?
  2. Rumor Mill: Dranoff Eying NE Corner of Broad and Washington | NakedPhilly
  3. Speculation at Broad and Washington, profiles in Occupy, safety at greened lots, parking in bike lanes, unified Chelten Avenue, Nutter nod

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