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

Nathaniel Popkin is co-founder of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (with Peter Woodall and Joseph E.B. Elliott) and two novels, Everything is Borrowed and Lion and Leopard. He is co-editor of Who Will Speak for America, an anthology forthcoming in June 2018, and the senior writer of the film documentary "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment."



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.

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Jewelry Designer Adds Flair To Old Stable In East Passyunk

Jewelry Designer Adds Flair To Old Stable In East Passyunk

October 9, 2019  |  Art & Design, Preservation

An old horse stable in South Philly finds a new function in the fashion world. Stacia Friedman takes a look inside > more

Salvage City: Recycling History One Object At A Time

Salvage City: Recycling History One Object At A Time

October 7, 2019  |  Art & Design

One person's trash is another person's treasure, especially in the world of architectural salvage. Jacqueline Drayer takes a look at a new art exhibition at Philadelphia's Magic Gardens through the lens of the city's reclaimed materials industry > more

Special Collections Show Their Stuff For Archives Month Philly

Special Collections Show Their Stuff For Archives Month Philly

October 3, 2019  |  History

Archives Month Philly kicks off with a long list of October events in the Delaware Valley. Kimberly Haas spoke to archivists from across the region to get the details on what's in store this year > more

The Crowning Glory Of Christ Church’s Steeple Comes Down For Restoration

The Crowning Glory Of Christ Church’s Steeple Comes Down For Restoration

September 26, 2019  |  Preservation

In Old City, Christ Church's 265-year-old weathervane come down from the steeple to undergo restoration. Kimberly Haas has the details > more

Op-ed: Spreading The Gospel Of Deadbox, One Bottle Cap At A Time

Op-ed: Spreading The Gospel Of Deadbox, One Bottle Cap At A Time

September 26, 2019  |  City Life

In this essay Len Davidson makes the case for resurrecting a long-lost Philly street game that once contributed to the vibrance of neighborhood life and the human connection of row house culture > more

Concrete Cowboy Of Southwest Philly Finds A New Home At Bartram's Garden

Concrete Cowboy Of Southwest Philly Finds A New Home At Bartram’s Garden

September 24, 2019  |  City Life

After being ousted from vacant, City-owned land, an urban cowboy and his posse of young protégées find a permanent place to hang their hats. Sam Newhouse has the news > more