Walmart's Midtown Miami Plan Sparks Anger, Confusion -- and Surprise Support

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Evil empire or jobs creator? Depends whom you ask.
There's nothing quite like the impending invasion of Arkansas's finest low-rent retailer to inspire fiery emotions in an up-and-coming neighborhood. (How many other chains have sparked angry documentaries and legions of dissenting groups?)

Ever since Riptide broke the news yesterday that Sam Walton's brainchild is planning a huge new outpost in midtown, residents and business owners have reacted with predictable anger and skepticism -- along with some very unpredictable love for the chain.

The dozens of comments on our posts and New Times' Facebook page are nearly evenly split between boosters and trashers of the idea.

Many are furious.

Writes commenter Shirley Temple: "GROSS. Stay the fuck away. Walmart kills local business and pays minimum wage. They are an environmental disaster. Ugly buildings, ugly parking lots. Ew."

From another reader, Benny Bolet: "That's what we need, more low quality crap made purposefully cheap so you are forced to buy said product again."

But many others agree with former Assistant City Manager Frank Rollason, who argued yesterday that Walmart could bring hundreds of jobs to an area hit hard by the recession -- and bring cheaper goods and groceries on top.

Count Amir Ben-Zion, owner of Gigi, arguably the hippest eatery in the neighborhood, among the believers.

Ben-Zion dismisses complaints that Walmart would hurt midtown's "image" -- an argument made by the Miami City Commission in 2005 when it rejected a similar bid by the retail giant.

"If you're that insecure about the neighborhood, that's a big problem to begin with," Ben-Zion says. "I don't think there's any threat to the 'cool element' in the neighborhood, which is very overplayed anyway... The cool places are open at night, not when Walmart will be packed."

Ben-Zion argues that the millions of dollars Walmart will invest in developing a vacant corner will only add value to all the other businesses in the neighborhood.

"We're all hard-working and heavily invested in this corridor," he says. "It's a big compliment that a company as big as Walmart is so interested in building a store here."

Others aren't so sure.

"This will ruin all of the independent stores that are popping up in this neighborhood," writes a reader under the name Miss Brache's. "I'm in the middle of trying to open my small business in that area. It will kill the vibe my business is going for."

Either way, midtown residents and fans might not have too much say in the end. Walmart spokeswoman Michelle Belaire tells Riptide the site south of Petsmart is already properly zoned for the retailer -- all that's left is approval of construction plans.

The store could be up and running by the end of 2012 or early 2013.

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Corrupt pols
Corrupt pols

WalMart probably paid a bribe to Marc Sarnoff or maybe WalMart just hired Sarnoff's campaign manager the sleazy lobbyist Steve "fatboy" Marin?

blahblah29
blahblah29

There is nothing wrong with Wal-Mart coming into the neighborhood, actually the City should of approved it years ago.  Everything is much more expensive and like it or not but Wal-Mart is affordable and help those who need to save money where they can.  If you ask me the neighborhood also needs either a Sams Club, Costco or BJ's just because we live in civilization doesnt mean we shouldn't have shopping options we really dont like dribing to Kendal or North Miami.  Wal-Mart welcome!!!

pearls
pearls

Ben-Zion is obviously not a Wal-Mart shopper. Nighttime is primetime. 

Sir Sausage
Sir Sausage

Especially in that area.  The evenings of the first of the month will be wild.

Barron
Barron

How does each District 2 candidate feel about this? That would be good to know before the election.

Sir Sausage
Sir Sausage

If you ask Sarnoff, he's going to deny knowing anything about it and say he's against it.  All while secretly working behind the scenes in order to make it happen.

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