Smaller, ‘urban’ Walmart proposed for Denver draws criticism

By HENDRIK SYBRANDY
FOX31 News

DENVER — Congress Park residents got a chance Wednesday evening to hear more about a proposed development that would put a Walmart in their neighborhood. The 28-acre residential/retail project would fill the area formerly occupied by the C.U. Health Sciences Center between 8th and 10th Avenues just east of Colorado Blvd.

The development would be anchored by a Walmart, a prospect many in the area don’t like.

“The neighborhood widely opposes a Walmart,” said Denis Moynihan, who started the website StopWalmartColorado.com. “It’s just not the kind of development that we really need, especially two blocks from Teller Elementary School, for example.”

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Several hundred residents packed a room at National Jewish Health to hear representatives of Fuqua Development and Walmart outline details of the plan. The Walmart store would be three-quarters the size of one of its traditional superstores. It would include underground parking and other amenities that a spokesman said would represent a good fit for the neighborhood.

“Once people see the different concept that we have here, that it’s not a suburban store but more of an urban concept, they’re much more understanding and willing to consider supporting the idea,” said Joshua Phair, Walmart’s Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations.

Many residents worry that the Walmart will increase traffic headaches. They also criticize the company’s labor and business practices. One woman said the neighborhood wants “good sustainable well-paying jobs for our neighbors and none of these are values that Walmart stands for.”

“In terms of our benefits and wages, we know they’re competitive within the retail industry,” Phair replied. He said nearly 200,000 customers a day in the Denver metro area have “voted with their feet” by shopping at Walmart.

After Wednesday’s meeting, residents held a non-binding vote on the proposal. Results of the vote will be released later Thursday. Opponents of the project hope to dissuade the Denver City Council from approving tax financing that would help make the development a reality.