Mayor Greg Fischer agrees with neighborhood leaders who favor an urban design for the planned Walmart coming to west Louisville, but he warns the potential for extra cost could be a roadblock.
Last month, a coalition of residents and preservationists held a forum calling on Walmart and the city to build a more urban-styled store to benefit pedestrians and public transit users.
Walmart has built these type of stores in other cities, such as Washington D.C. and Knoxville, Tennessee.
The national chain’s west Louisville proposal is a suburban-style shopping center, surrounded by a large parking lot extending to the street.
Fischer told WFPL Monday that the city has shared concerns with Walmart about the initial design, and that his office is working with the retailer to comply with the land code as much as possible.
“We’ve encouraged them to make it as environmentally friendly as possible, to move the store as close to 18th and/or Broadway as possible so it’s friendly with public transportation as that’s how a lot of folks are going to be going in and out of the Walmart,” he said. “So we’re in the ongoing process with them and I’m hopeful it will lead to a good result.”
In a June 12 Metro Planning & Design document obtained by WFPL, city officials highlighted about a dozen issues with the 18th & Broadway site.
Among their suggestions to developers: reducing the parking lot by 20 percent; requiring at least 50 percent of the store’s facades on public rights-of-way have animating features; and encouraging the store to build closer to the sidewalk.
Fischer said the city will “push and cajole” Walmart as much as it can.
Grassroots activists pushing for an urban-style store are skeptical.
“It’s easy to say that you’re in favor of the right thing, but do you have the will and the strength of leadership to bring those things about,” said Martina Kunnecke, president of the Neighborhood Planning & Preservation, one of the groups supporting the urban Walmart design.
“We just haven’t seen that with this mayor,” she added. “There won’t any follow through or there’ll be some sort of window dressing given to the community to make it seem as if he gave us his all.”
The mayor said an overwhelming number of residents contacting his office want the $25 million project to move forward in order to bring better retail options and potentially 300 jobs to the area.
In terms of the design, Fischer said the bottom line for Walmart is if the site is economically feasible with an urban design.
“The D.C. Walmarts look great and that’s why we would like to have them too,” said Fischer. “So it’ll be up to Walmart and the city there at the end to say we want this and whether or not they’ll do it and what it is they can live with.”
“As a community we’ve got to decide if they don’t want to do the total urban Walmart design, would we just as soon have the lot empty there.”
The next public hearing for the West End Walmart has not yet been scheduled.