Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mum's the word

Would you like to know what members of the Washington County Authority board really think about the plan to build an upscale Wal-Mart at Southpointe II? Good luck with that. Wednesday night, members of the politically appointed panel did their best impressions of attendees at a convention of deaf-mutes. Asked to approve a property sale needed to clear the way for the Wal-Mart project, the members of the authority board – Bill Burt, John Rheel, Scott Frederick, Suzanne Ewing, Lawrence Miller and Dennis Dutton - didn't utter a peep when board chairman Alan Veliky asked twice for a motion on the matter. If they wanted to vote against the plan, that's fine. But these people didn't have the guts to even put the matter up for a vote or to take a public stand one way or the other. We could assume, I guess, that they all bowed to pressure from project opponents, or maybe from the politicians who appointed them to the board. Rod Piatt, president of developer Horizon Properties, said the authority never had the right to "pick and choose" what businesses locate in Southpointe II, but the panel essentially did just that by refusing to act on the property deal. Mike Swisher, a principal with Horizon Properties, said $200 million worth of construction and 3,000 jobs were at stake. Chris West of Cullinan Properties said the apparent demise of the Wal-Mart store will have a negative trickle-down effect. "We don't have the critical mass. It's going to kill our (movie) theater deal and other associated restaurants that were going to come along with it," he said. So now, the developers are back to square one, and in the current economic climate, most other major retailers are not expanding to new sites. The opponents can talk all they want about things such as traffic concerns. I think the real reason this project drew so much opposition is that the snooty suburbanites in that area were deathly afraid that a Wal-Mart might attract "the wrong kind of people." You can bet there would have been a lot less discontent if a Macy's had been slated for the site.

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Blogger PRIguy said...

An upscale WalMart? That's an oxymoron.

April 16, 2009 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Dale Lolley said...

I loved the letter to the editor we had from the former union head at the Shop n Save saying it would kill the Shop n Save. I know Wal Mart has really killed the Giant Eagle here in Washington - not. And they're right across the street from each other.
And does anybody else find it ridiculous that Shop n Save has a union?
I worked at a Shop n Save in college for two weeks until I found out how much the union was taking from me and my $3.35 per hour job so that their meat cutters could earn $15 an hour.
I know, those baggers and cashiers sure are put upon by the man.
I quit, went across the street and got a job at Giant Eagle instead.

April 16, 2009 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I think that Walmart in Washington is the best thing to happen to that OTHER side of Rt 19...

I have no qualms with Walmart's business model, their mission statement, or even so much with their execution... but damnit if I won't go ANYWHERE else to get whatever it is I need...

There's a strategy apparent in the way Strabane Square and Trinity Point have developed... If you drop a walmart into a one horse town that doesn't really have any homegrown commerce worth writing home about (waynesburg)... then yes... every dollar in the area is going to go to the Walmart.

However, if you build concurrent with the walmart and fill a niche that wally world doesn't fill... you can do A-OK... you will siphon off of their traffic and will develop a customer base that is just isn't a walmart shopper... Giant eagle positioned themselves as the high-end grocer with their organic selection and market district quality... Target is the same way... they are the anti-walmart and I am sure they are doing fine filling that niche.

April 16, 2009 at 1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Upscale Walmart? I Think you've just invented an oxymoron.

April 16, 2009 at 3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, PRIguy -- I should read before I post.

April 16, 2009 at 3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clearly those attempting to make a joke of "upscale WalMart" have not followed this project, or done their homework.

April 16, 2009 at 9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like Mr. Maggi didn't do his homework either,

Sorry, but for all those haters of Wal-Mart, the issue may not be dead.

April 17, 2009 at 8:23 AM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

I shop at Wal Mart all the time. I have no qualms about going there for just about anything I need other than clothes, shoes and cookware.

But an upscale WalMart? Ever heard the expression, "You can't polish a turd?"

April 17, 2009 at 8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How 'bout a downscale Get Go? Oh -- that'd be a gas station.

April 17, 2009 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger Dale Lolley said...

I've been to some very nice Wal-Marts that I would consider far more upscale than others.

April 17, 2009 at 10:32 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Several years ago, I attended a session or two of the Western Center Land Re-Use Task Force that was charged with studying the possible future uses of this land.

Big box retail was never part of the proposals at that time.

I know economic conditions are worse now than they were then. But, it still seems that the addition of big box retail makes a mockery of the work that came out of that commission.

Personally, I have long thought that the former Western Center land would have made a very good location for a future "Community College of Washington County" or a potential "Penn State Canonsburg" or "Canonsburg University of Pennsylvania."

With its access to the highways, so much of the county's population and possible partnerships with Southpointe businesses, it would make an excellent location for a new source of higher education.

April 18, 2009 at 4:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the attraction for most K-Mart customers is that they have never seen E-lek-tristy and clothes on hangers before.

April 18, 2009 at 10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, a community college would serve an group all ready served by Allegheny Community College without the economic burden on the taxpayers here.
Look, the county should not be in the land development business. Extend the infrastructure and allow natural growth. Sell the property to the highest bidder and get out of it. Let market forces work. Because if the market doesn't support the move, then it won't work and will just be a drain in the future.
No tax breaks for building, just sell to those that can afford to buy and invest it in. No restrictions, who cares about a building that is a historical reminder of a worse time for the treatment of those with mental illness? Just because someone is used to seeing something, does not mean it deserves to stay there.
If Wal-Mart is what the market demands, then ok. If not, ok.
Political figures seem unable to avoid getting involved in things that they should stay out of. It feeds their egos for making decisions that are best left to those that are risking their own capital.

April 18, 2009 at 10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But wouldn't a Community College on the site of the former Western Center drive W&J out of business? I'm not sure we'd want to attract "that" type of student anyway. (Sarcasm off)

April 19, 2009 at 10:13 PM  

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