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Decatur Residents Question Walmart, Suburban Plaza Developers

Developers say Walmart would be "Decatur funky" in style.

Residents of several Decatur neighborhoods met Wednesday evening with developers who want to renovate Suburban Plaza and build a Walmart there.

Though the shopping center is outside the city limits, the Decatur residents are worried about traffic and congestion.

The meeting took place in the theater in DeKalb Medical. Scott Selig and Bill Stogner of Selig Enterprises met the Decatur Heights Neighborhood Association and residents of neighborhoods in the Sycamore Drive, Forkner Drive and Church Street areas.

Selig is seeking a parking variance to proceed. The DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals will hear the case Dec. 14.

The developers met Nov. 2 with residents of the Medlock Road area.

Click the 'replay' button above to review the Q&A between residents and the developers.

clm1950 December 01, 2011 at 02:35 AM
What will happen to the established businesses located in Suburban Plaza?
Jonathan Cribbs December 01, 2011 at 02:54 AM
I'm not sure that's been resolved. At the meeting last month in Medlock, a Selig representative said the lease contracts include a clause that says business owners can be ejected or moved in the event of a redevelopment.
J December 01, 2011 at 07:41 AM
This is an interesting read... http://advocate.nyc.gov/files/Walmart.pdf It contains warnings about the same garbage the Walmart - Selig people were trying to sell us at the meeting tonite. Good-bye Decatur as we know it! Is there any way to stop this? Suburban is blighted to be sure but the Walmart will destroy many other businesses long term.
Lee-Ann December 01, 2011 at 10:55 AM
Most of Suburban Plaza is cool. Decatur Estate (renamed), Hancock, the Indian clothing store, the beauty supply store, even Big Lots. Talk about "Decatur funky"! I've bought stuff at all those place multiple times. I think if they got something interesting in the grocery store slot at the front it would help. Like, maybe a Pier I. That would be in theme with cheap, off-beat, imported goods, but looks a little more upscale.
Meg Clark December 01, 2011 at 11:21 AM
I agree with Lee Ann! I'd even rather see a Marshalls, Ross, or Trader Joes there! I know people who have had Wal Marts move in and ruin all the local commerce, not to mention the traffic in an area not built to handle it. There is one on Candler, not that far away, so if you're desperate for Wal Mart, you can get there easily!
Anna Varela December 01, 2011 at 01:41 PM
Scott Selig, senior vice president of acquisition and development for Selig Enterprises, told the audience Wednesday night that the bowling alley will renovate. Bill Stogner, senior vice president of retail leasing for Selig, said Hancock Fabrics will probably not remain. Stogner said the lease will not be renewed and that all tenants agreed to a lease in which they can be moved out during renovation projects, with plenty of notice. For more details of last night's meeting, you can click the 'Play' button above and review the Q&A that took place.
Steve December 01, 2011 at 01:59 PM
"Good-bye Decatur as we know it!" Oh, come on ! Downtown Decatur businesses do not compete with what WalMart sells. The people who shop and support those businesses will continue to do so, just as they have in the past. Most Decatur businesses are doing OK and have thanked the community for that.
Tammy December 01, 2011 at 06:36 PM
Y'all gonna get a Wal Mart. They have lawyers with deep pockets.
Kevin Polite December 01, 2011 at 07:07 PM
I don't live directly in that area, but I've had similar experiences with Wal-Mart on Gresham Rd when I lived in E. Atlanta and again (are they following me?) when I moved to Midway Woods in Decatur when they placed one at the intersection of Memorial/Columbia. Neither had the expected increase in traffic. They do a really good job of mitigating any inconveniences to the surrounding n'hoods. The one on Memorial/Columbia that was fought hard against by Avondale is actually a pretty good solution for that area. I hasn't closed any of the nearby by stores and I actually started shopping there on a few occasions. You may say E.Atlanta & this portion of Decatur or not similar, however, if you do a demographic study of those areas you'll notice they really isn't that much difference. I am not a fan of Wal-Mart and I use to say all the horrible things everyone else has said in the past, but after the Memorial/Columbia store open I've had a less than 180 change. If it spurns other companies to take a chance on that area I'm all for it. Wal-Mart has learned a lot from their mistakes in the past and is trying to be a much better corporate citizen, plus if their redevelopment brings a LA Fitness I'm all for it. Just my nickel's worth.
Stephanie December 01, 2011 at 09:07 PM
I shopped at the Walmart on Memorial Drive at Columbia last night to pick up things I needed for the senior I adopted through Decatur's Season of Giving program and if there had been a Walmart in Suburban Plaza, I would have gone to that one instead as it would have been closer to the path I was taking from work to meet my co-shopper and then home.
Lori Diem December 02, 2011 at 02:22 AM
Hi, Kevin. I do live in the area. I am one of the people that fought the Wal-Mart on Memorial Drive and Columbia. I live about 1/2 mile away from the area and regularly receive the crime reports that are generated from that area. There is nothing but crime, areas littered with the shopping carts that they swore would stay in their parking lot and none of the community perks that were promised to us. Do not believe what they tell you to sell you on a Wal-Mart. They promised us a coffee house, reasonable housing for community officials and a green space. All we got was crime, a lot of noise and rats that flooded our backyards when they constructed the site. Take a drive by. No green space, no community housing and lots of shopping carts. After about 2 years and a view of a torn-up parking lot (a very large, multi-tiered parking lot), we are now getting a ....wait for it............. Sun Trust bank! This is NOT an improvement to our community. We do not have any other companies taking a chance on our community. We do have a Tad that the residents approved, which brings some money to improve the area - lights and side walks. A minor improvement, but I would NOT give Wal-Mart any credit for this.
Tammy December 02, 2011 at 02:04 PM
I think the Wal Mart at Memorial is better than a rotting empty mall that screams 1980's Dekalb white flight.
Nick December 02, 2011 at 04:59 PM
The Wal-Mart on Memorial (which I was against), has generally worked out ok, i guess...and I have noticed that there are Wal-Marts just about everywhere, in places where you wouldn't "think" they'd put one: the one in Chamblee, the one near Perimeter Mall, etc...I, too, wonder where was the promised mixed-use development for the Avondale Wal-Mart...and I think that Wal-Mart was responsible for the closing of Maxway, which was one of my favorite stores! Anyhoo, I think developers go where the money is...The "Solid Gold Plaza" has been vacant for decades now, but you could easily "see" a Target, Publix, Home Depot, Lowe's, or some other big box store there, but surely they aren't gonna put one there...why? They probably don't think the area would support it enough for them to make a profit. I would like to see something other than a Wal-Mart go in the Suburan Plaza. I liked it when it was a Pep Boys, but I'm guessing rent there is HIGH and there probably aren't many DIY mechanics in the area.
Deanne December 04, 2011 at 04:39 PM
Ralph- Thanks for your terrific live coverage of the meeting so that the entire community could follow along. Much appreciated! The DHNA's goal was to provide an opportunity for the neighborhoods and businesses on the Church Street side of Suburban Plaza to learn more about the project and to hear from Selig and Walmart on our main concerns. We provided the concerns in advance so that they would be able to address as many as possible. Unfortunately, audience outbursts during the posed questions part probably clipped some of the information they'd planned to provide. The DHNA's official position is to work with Selig and Walmart to revitalize Suburban Plaza into a successful, neighborhood friendly shopping destination. We look foward to partnering with them to ensure minimum negative impact. Here's the list of the Selig/Walmart folks who participated: For Selig Enterprises: Scott Selig, Sr VP Acquisitions & Development Bill Stogner, Sr VP Retail leasing Kevin Curry, VP Construction & Property Management Greg Catoe, Senior Project Manager and LEED Architect For Walmart: Glen Wilkins, Senior Manager of Public Affairs and Government Relations Bill Stogner followed up the next day to say, "I hope neighbors feel Selig is transparent during this process and they can reach out to us at any time to suggest, constructively criticize and be a part of this redevelopment." For audio of the entire meeting, please visit: www.decaturheights.com
J December 04, 2011 at 05:21 PM
As I recall, the audience "outbursts" for the most part were in objection to the refusal of Selig to discuss current traffic numbers so that we could have an idea of the actual increase of traffic. They provided the number expected but without a measure of the current traffic level those numbers lose any comparative significance. Several people asked for the current traffic level and the response from Selig was the same in every case: "Would you rather have no development at all? Would you rather have pawn shops and tattoo parlors?" Non-answers such as these to a really rather simple, logical question posed by so many people whose quality of life and property values are at stake struck me as not only condescending but quite evasive. I was left with the impression that since Selig refuses to answer a direct question that is obviously on the minds of so many the traffic increase must be horrible and they know it. Selig did throw out sort of a half suggestion that they would do a study of current traffic levels but seemed to stop short of an actual commitment. Do they plan to do the study after all since so many of us want an actual answer?
Anne Fowlkes December 04, 2011 at 08:00 PM
Why do we need a Walmart there when there is one so close at Memorial and Columbia?
Deanne December 04, 2011 at 08:43 PM
J- I agree the traffic impact discussion was botched- not out of evasiveness, but by not explaining how impact studies are done in general. From what I can tell, it isn't based on a snapshot in time, but on what car traffic a property is designed to handle when in full use as configured. To calculate the impact, you'd factor in all proposed changes and apply known data to best determine what to expect. (Selig does this for a living, but forgot we need 101 stuff too!) The first thing Bill Stogner said on traffic is they're having the Traffic Study reevaluated by a 3rd party because they also question the numbers. He and Scott Selig agree traffic's going to be impacted by the redevelopment, and Bill said he'd get the current traffic/impact studied. The Study will be public record, so folks will soon know if he did or didn't follow through. While it's certainly smart to question information, it'd have been good to let Bill and Scott state their case fully. It's not reasonable for neighbors to expect Selig to leave Suburban Plaza in underperforming status as some of the audience wanted when point blank asked. Yes, we've all gotten used to low impact from it for the past several years, but it's been a successful neighborhood shopping center for most of its history. It's certainly reasonable for neighbors to expect Selig to actively partner with us to address the traffic impact. Partnerships usually work best when you've not insulted the other party along the way.
iou December 15, 2011 at 02:29 PM
We need another walmart there because walmart has determined the area is a viable drain to suction out millions of community dollars to send to their overseas based factories.
Michelle December 15, 2011 at 10:09 PM
If Selig owns this property, how come they have never invested in it's revitalization until Walmart comes knocklng. Why have they been letting it sit and rot for so long? I have been here 10 years and have not seen any interest in keeping the property up (chipped paint, broken doors, broken sidewalks, unmarked parking spots, broken glass in parking spaces, no green space, trash blowing around). I always found this suprising given that it is surrounded by upper middle class neighborhoods. Seems to me that they are poor stewards of our community dollars or at the very least demonstrate a general lack of respect for our community. How can they in good conscious let a shopping center look the way it does? I simply do not understand it. Don't they have the responsibility for property maintenance? How can we ensure that they will maintain the property once it is developed?
Jonathan Cribbs December 16, 2011 at 12:28 AM
I don't really have a dog in this fight, but I'm not sure it's that simple, Michelle. Shopping centers typically have a shelf life. Unless they're in very key locations and able to lure whatever the big brands are at any given moment, they typically die at some point. A shopping center gets to a point where they can only attract smaller stores and brands, and their lease rates are lowered, making it less feasible to keep the center's quality maintained. A lot of big box retailers wouldn't look at Suburban Plaza as the prime location it perhaps once was. But Walmart is moving into smaller communities now, and because they attract a lot of customers, other brands are interested that wouldn't be otherwise. So, in essence, the entire redevelopment hinges on Walmart's presence. That's Selig's position anyway. Not saying improvements couldn't have been made or anything, but what's happened to Suburban Plaza over the few decades is not uncommon.
Gina Hill December 16, 2011 at 02:08 PM
I live in Avondale Estates and I didn't have a strong feeling one way or another about the Wal Mart at Memorial Drive. Yes, it's better than a rotting mall and I do shop there at times. Sure, it's not gorgeous. But no one else was jumping at the opportunity to make it anything else. I would love for Suburban Plaza to be redone. Just wish it was something other than a Wal Mart. I like the Pier One idea. I would looooove a Target. A large central store with remaining smaller funky local places would be great.
Becky December 17, 2011 at 02:08 AM
Since it's Christmastime and I haven't asked Santa for anything, I'd like to request that Target move in there, along with Trader Joe's, a really cool coffee shop, maybe a sort of retro-hippie store and a small park. That would be super! To me Wal-mart feels more like receiving a chunk of coal for Christmas. But that's just me. :)
Jonathan Cribbs December 17, 2011 at 02:33 AM
Selig said last month they contacted Trader Joe's, which had no interest in Suburban Plaza. But I gotta ask this: Aren't Walmart and Target essentially the same thing? I gotta say, I've been to both and only notice superficial differences.
Becky December 17, 2011 at 01:43 PM
Oh no! Target is light-years away from Walmart. It is calmer and more aesthetically pleasing...not having products stacked in aisles and in every vacant spot. The average Walmart looks to me like it's desperate to sell every product known to humankind...we are commanded to buy buy buy! It is much more pleasant and not nearly as soul-crushing to shop at Target than Walmart. Sorry for the hyperbole but it's early and I haven't yet worked up the patience for nuanced expression. I'm also trying to face the probably inevitable arrival of Walmart with some measure of humor.
Tom Doolittle December 17, 2011 at 05:36 PM
Also on Wal-Mart--wages are going up in China so any store that relies heavily on Chinese manufacturing may be significantly impacted. With the combination of a few other things, such as the local "town" economy trend, I'd say Wal-Mart will be under heavy pressure to transform, upgrade or die. Another thing is, the company has shown no compunction against closing stores quickly and relocating. My projection is that Suburban Plaza will change significantly within 10 years--certainly as the "aura" of walkability and trains emerges. (Lindberg to Avondale train on tap, start in 15 years, dependent on economy of course--just the "notion" of what that means will affect how all of the other properties in the area will develop--walkability, local goods--urbanism has meant an economic "upgrade" so far.)
Jonathan Cribbs December 17, 2011 at 10:11 PM
The China thing is interesting. I read an article–Newsweek, I think–a few months ago from an international toy manufacturers convention in China somewhere. The big issue at the convention was the increasingly high cost of Chinese labor. That said, the article seemed to suggest that manufacturers would just find new, cheap labor to exploit elsewhere in the world. (China, for instance, is pouring trillions into Africa, though, as far as I know, there are still a whole lot of concerns regarding infrastructure, stability, etc., before everyone jumps on that bandwagon.) As for Walmart, I think this Suburban Plaza move might represent, anecdotally at least, part of a larger shift to neighborhood-based stores. I ran a post on that months ago: http://northdruidhills.patch.com/articles/walmart-vp-mum-on-decatur-store-bullish-on-atlanta-expansion
Jonathan Cribbs December 17, 2011 at 10:14 PM
Yeah, but that's exactly what I mean: You're essentially saying Target is a more pleasant place to shop. But isn't that relatively superficial? When I've needed a product, I've treated to two interchangeably. It never seems to matter. I can find the same thing at both stores. Target just seems to be marketed with a little more snazziness.
Tom Doolittle December 18, 2011 at 05:22 AM
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/12/how-walmart-is-changing-china/8709/ This really should be called "How China is Changing WalMart" or at lelast "How WalMart is Learning China". (BTW--this is not the wage/manufactring discussion we are having) Bottom line--note how WalMart is willing to morph when needs to--so what does that mean for its new stores in urban/hipster areas (or those that will trend that way)
Cheryl January 21, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Well said.
Kate Lee June 29, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Actually, I worked in China in the sourcing industry for 4 years. All the retailers (Walmart, Target, JCP, etc) are buying from the same 600-800 suppliers in China, India and Bangladesh. So everything is coming from the same places. If those of us in the neighborhood, give our opinion, hopefully whichever retailer comes in will keep in mind the aesthetics of the neighborhood because the stuff is all the same.... Almost anything is better than Suburban Plaza's current state, definitely needs a renovation.

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