After Miami New Times broke the news that a Walmart may be built in Midtown, there's been a growing debate in the community. Will the discount store squash local independent stores? Or will it bring jobs to a depressed economy?
Grant Stern, a mortgage broker and realty consultant who recently wrote an opinion piece for Open Media Miami, is passionately opposed to a Midtown Walmart. He writes:
Walmart, the standard bearer of international corporate power and conformity, just doesn’t fit the image that so many have worked to create for Midtown and the Wynwood Arts District, and placing the world’s largest discount retailer in the city's hub of arts and culture just doesn't make sense.
Read the rest of his op-ed here. Stern recently started a NoWalmartInMidtown petition on Change.org. While it only has 257 signatures so far and a goal of 50,000, Miamians are weighing in strongly in the comments section.
One signee Sabrina Kamil writes:
I have watched many amazing and diverse local businesses grow and thrive during the last five years. Bringing in Walmart to Midtown will mean seriously threatening the diversity of local offerings to residents of this area. Whose interests does having Walmart here serve, except for Walmart's?
Melissa Bourard notes: "Walmart is a disgusting corporation that practices unfair labor laws. The products are poor quality, and a Walmart at the location will make traffic a nightmare for this community."
Another signee, Pedro Almeida, simply believes: "It will not look good there at all."
Which brings up an important point: Is Miami too obsessed with the luxury lifestyle to acknowledge that a discount store like Walmart is sometimes the saving grace of many poor families? That's the message of Kareem Zarwi, who responded to Stern's piece on Open Media Miami earlier today.
In his words:
Miami has been struggling in the floundering economy, due to its own business model of building without financial reasoning, for a decade. The difference between here and Springfield, America, is that we hide that struggle behind outrageously financed BMW's and Prada sunglasses at early morning brunches at Cecconi's.
And he reminds Miami that we don't exactly have the most robust economy right now:
Walmart, as destructive as it is, provides many poor and low-income people the opportunity to purchase goods at relatively low prices. When Florida has the second highest unemployment rate in the nation, Miami-Dade County unemployment rate is above 10 percent and Miami-Dade County poverty rate is 17.7 percent, I would think that these factors would be considered above and before whether or not Walmart fits the 'image' that Midtown has come to project, that Mr. Stern seems to concern himself most with.
Read the rest of his op-ed here.
Based on the Twitter reaction, many more side with Stern than Zarwi: