The battle over whether Walmart will open a new store in the Heights is heating up. Mailers proclaiming "It's time to clean up this property and put it to work for all of Houston" have been popping up in mailboxes around town trying to convince residents that the abandoned property along Yale that is the proposed site of the new store needs a good old fashioned cleaning, Walmart style.
"We started hearing about them a couple days ago," said Nicholas Urbano, acting president of Responsible Urban Development for Houston, "They spent a lot of money on that mailer."
While opponents of the proposed Walmart have been taking their fight online with the website StopHeightsWalmart.org and through a companion Facebook page, it appears the big box retailer, mostly quiet until this point, has decided to join the fray with the mailer and a website, WalmartHouston.com.
The site, among other things, aims to change the discussion to jobs and money citing the creation of 300 new jobs and $870,000 in new tax revenue on the front page. It also attempts to take the emphasis off the Heights with the mailer using terms like "central Houston" and "inner loop," which probably isn't going to win them friends.
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"This isn't just a Heights deal," Urbano said. "It's an inner loop deal. The deal the developer is trying to get pulls from all Houston taxpayers. Hopefully, some of the other neighborhoods will [now] get behind the effort."
This isn't the first time mailers and websites have been used to convince people of the positive impact of Walmart on their communities. Nearly identical mailers have popped up in places like Rohnert Park, California and there are websites for Chicago Baltimore with the same basic message: Walmart is as good in an urban setting as it is in the burbs.
interview with CNBC last September, Walmart CEO Mike Duke said, "I hear from many that visit from the urban cities that would say 'Why don't you have a Walmart I can shop at? Why can't I have one in my town?'" to which he responded, "We're coming."
It may not be possible to stop the juggernaut of Walmart from invading urban settings, but Houston opponents have decided to try and have some fun with their protest asking people on their Facebook page to send their photos of the most creative uses of the mailer they have received. Prizes TBD, natch.