A scene from the South Park episode Something Wall-Mart This Way Comes.

By Collin Kelley
INtown Editor

I truly believe in Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity, or more simply put “meaningful coincidences.” It manifests itself in many different ways, but as I was sitting down to write this column, I looked up at the TV and saw there was an episode of South Park on called “Something Wall-Mart This Way Comes.”

In the episode, Stan, Kyle and Kenny go into battle against the big-box retailer (with a similar name to a real big-box retailer), which has addicted the entire town to buying reduced-price goods. At the back of the store, hidden behind a door, is the evil “heart” of the Wall-Mart. It turns out to be a mirror, with the not-so-subtle message that big box stores exist because people actually want them. Once the mirror is broken, the store disappears into a Poltergeist-style wormhole.

Something tells me that the residents around Suburban Plaza in Decatur and the neighborhoods around Glenwood Park would love to simply smash a mirror and make the proposed big-box retailers there go away.

It’s true that a vast majority of people shop at big-box retailers, whether it be Walmart, Target or at a mall. The trade off for convenience, more choices and lower prices is traffic, the potential for neighborhood destabilization as small “mom and pop” stores struggle to survive and the opening of the floodgates for even more retail.

I, too, have fallen under the sway of the big box. Turn me loose in Target for 30 minutes and I’ll be buying things I don’t need in a heartbeat. But I’ve also tried to diversify my consumerism by shopping at independent stores (especially music and bookshops) and online. I believe in spreading my dollars around and not going “all-in” at one location. I’m not anti-big box, but I do wish that developers would be more mindful of where they want to put them.

Unfortunately for the folks in DeKalb, the Walmart and Suburban Plaza seems like a fit and will probably be built despite the valiant efforts of Good Growth DeKalb and other concerned citizens. Not to get all Hunger Games, but the odds are simply not in their favor.

On the other hand, the idea of putting a big box in Glenwood Park just seems like insanity. Not only does it fly in the face of the surrounding development with its gorgeous townhomes and array of restaurants and retail, but it also doesn’t match the criteria for the Atlanta BeltLine overlay, which calls for mixed-use along the corridor.

The old Lafarge concrete plant site on Glenwood Avenue is ripe for redevelopment, but why a big-box store with a sea of parking? Why not a mix of homes, retail and restaurants, which residents have said they would welcome? Perhaps the developer sacrifice a little profit and become a better steward for the community? Good will goes a long way.

If you read the article on Intown’s apartment boom in the October issue, you will see that the trend is toward mixed-use with living, shops and restaurants all conveniently group together or in the same building. It’s what city-dwellers want and are willing to pay top dollar for. That should make certain developers sit up and take notice.

Send your feedback to collin@atlantaintownpaper.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

2 replies on “Letter from the Editor: Big Box Conundrum”

  1. Hi Collin,

    Thanks for taking the time to thoughtfully cover this issue. As a resident of Ormewood Park, I am strongly opposed to a big-box invasion in Glenwood Park and by far the majority of my neighbors feel the same. The residents of Southeast Atlanta have done a lot to nurture and improve where they live. If not for our efforts to build a great neighborhood, no developer would be interested in the first place. Why is the city rewarding our efforts with a development that would be blight on our community instead of an improvement. Hopefully, our protests will not fall on deaf ears, or we’ll have to smash that mirror some other way.

    Thanks again,
    Sandy

  2. Hi Collin,

    Thanks for taking the time to thoughtfully cover this issue. As a resident of Ormewood Park, I am strongly opposed to a big-box invasion in Glenwood Park and by far the majority of my neighbors feel the same. The residents of Southeast Atlanta have done a lot to nurture and improve where they live. If not for our efforts to build a great neighborhood, no developer would be interested in the first place. Why is the city rewarding our efforts with a development that would be blight on our community instead of an improvement. Hopefully, our protests will not fall on deaf ears, or we’ll have to smash that mirror some other way.

    Thanks again,
    Sandy

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