Jul 30, 2014

Should Another Big Box Come to Athens?

Does a Big Box come with a mixed bag? Does Big Box = Pandora's Box?

Should Another Big Box Come to Athens?

Within what seemed like minutes of news that a Big Box retailer, most iikely a Wal Mart, was coming to the edge of downtown Athens, people had started to organize against it.

Never mind that such a store would bring jobs to town. Never mind that it would generate millions in sales tax revenues and property taxes. Never mind that it would provide an accessible source of groceries to an in-town neighborhood without one. Never mind that an collection of historic warehouses would be reborn into a kind of instant mixed use village.

Nope. Those against Wal Mart don't want it. Period. They don't want the low-paying jobs, the accompanying traffic, the Disney-fication of downtown. More than 12,000 people have signed a petition against the giant retailer coming to downtown.

One group met at last Thursday night to strategize, under the leadership of former Congressional candidate Russell Edwards. Others have led debates on Facebook and tweeted and retweeted their messages of dismay and  outrage.

Some opponents deicded to "phone bomb" Selig Enterprises. Others know they have to convince the developers to change their minds.

Signs have started to pop up in locally owned stores in downtown.

The messages and slogans are clever and catchy. Think outside the Box. Live Better. Buy Local. We Are Athens.Org. Buy Local.

Appealing to elected officials won't produce any results. Political observers say the Mayor and Commission can't control what the developer, Selig Enterprises, puts on the 10 acres between Oconee and West Broad streets. They can't prevent owner Leonard Pitts from selling the former East Broad warehouse now housing . The land is zoned commerical and is right for just such a tenant as Wal Mart.

What do you think? Is Wal Mart a good fit for that part of Athens? If not, what would you like to see instead?  Tell us in the comments.

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