Walmart held a meeting to address the community´s questions and concerns over their plans to build a small super-center thirty feet from the downtown district. The 96,000 square foot store will include a grocery store and a general product section, but will differ from a normal super-center in that it will be about half the height, like a retail Powerpuff Girl. Although I came out pretty strongly against having a Wal-mart in downtown Sarasota when I first heard the idea, and still hold a bit of malice against them as a company for some of their operating procedures and for what they represent as the soul-sucking, sweat-shop system of capitalism that serves to erode the fabric of civilization, I thought the open forum was very nice of them.
Actually, since my initial reaction, I´ve taken a pragmatic look at the issue and listened to the advocacy of the devil through many in Sarasota who like the idea of Wal-mart coming to downtown Sarasota. While I have kind of acquiesced to the understanding that global corporations will do what they do, I was very glad to see so many concerned citizens rising to the occasion to speak their mind about what is important to them regarding the building of an architectural behemoth a few hundred yards away from their homes.
Having reached the point where I understand that I must find a way to live in harmony with the fact that nefarious practices may just continue no matter how hard I wail against them, I decided to focus my energy on what I could control. I don´t think that I can really do anything about how Wal-mart undermines the American economy by purchasing so many of the products from China, and undermining the quality of human life when the makers of those products are paid such paltry wages. I can´t do anything about small businesses who go out of business because they can´t compete with the lust for convenience and cheap prices. But I figured that I could have a say in how this monstrosity affected the landscape.
So when the guy asked to interview me for the nightly news, I didn´t feel that the politics of the corporation were pertinent to the discussion, so I basically said that I don´t think that it matches the style that Sarasota has historically celebrated. I felt that my answer was impassioned, but still kind of shallow. Most of my concerns are pretty obvious, and throughout the evening, the neighbors did a splendid job of mentioning them. So I assumed that those voices would have a part in the newscast.
Nope. Just Steve spouting off about history, tradition, originality, uniqueness, and stuff. I laughed out loud when I realized that I was the lone spokesperson for the anti-Wal-mart brigade. I didn´t even worry about the fact that he misspelled my name even though I told him how to spell it on tape.
Anyway, when I looked at the mock-ups as pragmatically as I could, I didn´t think that it sucked. Personally, I usually think that Wal-Marts are ugly – and don´t get me wrong, I still think this one is ugly too – but this one seems to least be ugly with style. The architect has gone to great lengths to create an interesting exterior facade with a funky glass entryway and windows. They are going to have skylights throughout, use LED lighting, and add a bunch of landscaping. As far as Wal-marts go, it looks like it could be a nice one.
I still think it´s a bad idea to put a Wal-mart thirty feet from the downtown core. To me, it seems like a steep price to pay for a facility that is mostly going to offer jobs that pay only supplemental income. But considering that part time jobs will free people up to get more involved in the time bank, maybe it´s not such a bad thing. Besides, if the economy crashes and Wal-mart has to bail out on the store, we´ll have one heck of a community center.