Wal-Mart: Feeding off sprawl and giving it a push

An article in a developers’ house organ, Urban Land, brightly relates stories of empty retail spaces being filled by such innovative uses as medical clinics and libraries. The article says the empty spaces are a result of “recession and prolonged economic stagnation”.

That’s not the whole story…

…certainly not in Winnipeg, where Wal-Mart left a large space in Grant Park Shopping Centre, located at the edge of a prosperous, inner-ring suburban community,  to move to a massive big box store farther out. That move, along with others that took place at the same time, fed off sprawl, and gave an extra push to the development of more sprawl still farther out.

Things worked out for Grant Park Mall, where a Canadian retailer, Zellers, took over the abandoned space, but they haven’t worked out for the taxpayers of Winnipeg and Manitoba who, as I observed in my last post, can’t afford to fix deteriorating downtown streets because so much is going into building new ones for the likes of Wal-Mart.

There’s no point blaming Urban Land or Wal-Mart for this. They’re just doing their jobs. The blame goes to taxpayers and governments who can’t work up the courage to ensure that the real costs of new streets, water lines and sewers at Winipeg’s edge and in adjacent municipalities are covered by development charges. Sprawl is killing the city slowly. Why are we subsidizing it?

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