Update: The article has been updated to say that Philip Kingston initiated the petition.
Melissa Kingston, Belmont Addition neighbor and wife of City Councilman Philip Kingston, is advocating for a petition to stop Walmart from turning the vacant building on Lower Greenville into a Sam’s Club (which is also owned by Walmart). The building has been vacant for more than two years.
But the Dallas Morning News reports that the 32,000-square-foot building will be a Sam’s Club opening this fall. The building is less than a third of the usual Sam’s Club building, and this location will include “technology-driven shopping” that focuses on convenience items, fresh foods and pre-made meals.
The member’s-only store will allow shoppers to use Sam’s Scan & Go system to aid check-out via an app. It will allow patrons to scan their items as they shop and pay on their way out. The store will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
With about 450 apartments headed to the corner of Belmont and Greenville across the street from the vacant Walmart, the added density will be a boon for business.
The retailer says it has spoken with the Lower Greenville Neighborhood Association and wants to be a good neighbor. In a statement the company said, “We know this site has been a subject of conversation over the years, and we are committed to being a good neighbor. We believe this will be a great use for this facility in this exciting part of town.”
But Kingston says Walmart only contacted one neighborhood association, and asked them not to publicize their meeting. “The successes we have seen in that part of the city work because we work collaboratively. It’s not a recipe for success,” she says of the lack of collaboration. “You have to stop and ask why.”
East Dallas is no stranger to Sam’s Club conflicts, after an attempt was made to build one at Fitzhugh and Central Expressway. It was approved by the city but never built after neighbors fought the plans. When Walmart took over the Whole Foods space on Lower Greenville in late 2012, it also stirred up the neighbors, who complained of bright lights, noisy deliveries and property damage.
Melissa Kingston remembers Walmart trucks destroying a Belmont neighbor’s tree while trying to make deliveries, despite promising to not use Belmont for deliveries. She feels that Walmart is a poor neighbor and operator, and doesn’t think Sam’s Club is a good fit for the neighborhood.
In January 2016, Walmart closed the store along with a number of others across the country, many of which were the Neighborhood Market locations like the one on Greenville. Since then, the building has remained vacant. Robert Wilonsky reported that the property owner had a 14-year lease on the property, and that Walmart said they would keep the lease, which ends in 2032.
Interest in the building ranged from family entertainment centers to other grocery stores, but the cost of breaking up the space was too expensive and the property owner has no intention of selling because of the lease. But the piece also quoted Libertine Bar co-owner Simon McDonald as saying anything is better than nothing.
According to the petition, Walmart “is currently holding secret meetings with a few of the neighbors in an attempt to create the illusion of community support.” It urges signees “to show Walmart that we do not want it back in our neighborhood. Sign to ask Walmart to lease to a high-quality tenant.”
Four-hundred and eight-five people signed the petition as of Thursday at 11:45 a.m., and Kingston is hopeful that Walmart will listen, despite her past interactions with the retail giant.
“I vote with my dollars, and I won’t be voting there,” she says. “I am confident I won’t be the only one.”
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