Finding Get Smart at Lowest Greenville WalMart

The process of turning the Lowest Greenville Whole Foods into a Neighborhood WalMart is beginning to look more like Get Smart than a corporate action.

For months, the CBRE folks managing the lease have refused to say who, if anyone, was leasing the space that has been empty for nearly three years. Since last July, teams of people have been scurrying all over the building. Last November, the announcement of the new tenant was postponed while the T's were crossed. But behind the scenes, WalMart filed nearly 130 pages of sitemaps just after Thanksgiving, which neighbors found (and published) in early February. Still, absolute complete radio silence from CBRE. WalMart issued polite denials, claiming - We're still looking at this and other properties.

Over the past few weeks, BD's neighbors have noticed more activity at the site. A locksmith changed all the locks last week and more scurrying by teams of people around the property. Then yesterday, BD spotted among the scurriers a tall female dressed a little more professionally than the guys. Our first guess was correct - She is the CBRE agent for the property (we won't name her for reasons which will be obvious in a moment, but her name is on the leasing signs).

BD went over to where they were all standing outside Blockbuster, introduce himself, give her a business card and immediately was told, No Comment by the real estate agent. Okay, no surprise there. BD then walks back across the street, sits on his neighborhor's front lawn and watches the scene for a few moments. At the right time, he brings up his Nikon camera with a 70/300mm lens and starts shooting photos of everything that moved.

At that moment, the agent turns tail and runs into a wall - literally. She throws the business card into the trash, ducks behind a post and walks with her back against the wall until she enters Whole Foods, watching for the camera all the while. BD hates to pop her self-aggrandizing bubble, but she was not the object of our attention.

No, BD wanted photos of the siteplans being carried by different people. With sunlight streaming behind them, the text was clearly visible even at 100 feet, which meant the words would show up in the photos. And oh my, did they ever show.

Here's a photo of one document, with the words DEMOLITION FLOOR PLAN and PAGE D1 clearly visible. Comparing this document to the PDF images of the site plans filed with the City, BD is sadly coming to the conclusion that a WalMart will be taking up this space. By calling it a TENANT IMPROVEMENT, WalMart may be able to ignore requirements for landscaping, fencing, sound barriers, and other items to mitigate impact on the neighbors (like a 24-hour on-site SWAT team).

Here is what BD and his neighbors are trying to understand. Why the secret?? WalMart has ignored invitations (sent via CBRE) for meetings with the neighbors, we know it's just a repackaged Whole Foods building (even the facade will stay the same), and we know it's a supermarket.

This is not looking good for the neighborhood. Has anyone noticed the only action on the former Arcadia/proposed Trader Joe's site has been the installation of plastic fencing to keep cars off the dirt. If they want to open Trader Joe's by December (as announced), that dirt should be flying all over the place by now.

The residents who live around the property are organized and ready to sit down with WalMart to discuss our issues. We've been ready for almost a year. Hello, WalMart???

Just make sure you call the right neighbors. It does not help that one so-called neighborhood leader (who lives about a mile north of this location) is quoted in the DMN (behind the paywall, which is why you did not see it) as saying -

Some residents are concerned that Wal-Mart doesn’t have the cachet of a Trader Joe’s, but “I only know what’s been reported,” said Patricia Carr, president of the Lower Greenville Neighborhood Association. “I haven’t talked to that many people, but one common reaction is thank goodness that something is going in there,” she said. “It’s been vacant too long. We’re always grateful when neighborhood businesses enter our area.”

Unless you live in Arkansas, WalMart is NOT a neighborhood business. BD won't get into the issues of low wages or labor policy, but to call WalMart a neighborhood business or having less cachet is an insult to people like Simon MacDonald, who owns the Libertine, or Sammy Mandell, who owns The Greenville Avenue Pizza Company. By her definition, a whorehouse would be a neighborhood business.

While we ponder these issues, here are some more photos from Monday.

By Avi S. Adelman under Public safety , Lower Greenville