Menino no Wal-Mart greeter
Boston Mayor Tom Menino has made official what he’s been saying for months: There’s no way Wal-Mart is opening a store in his city. What he really means is, there’s no way he’s helping Wal-Mart open a store in his city. The retailer has to do that on its own. According to a report in today’s Globe, Wal-Mart had hoped to open a store in Dudley Square, on the site of an abandoned MBTA bus yard. The store would have been a small grocery format, similar to the one Wal-Mart is hoping to open near Assembly Square in Somerville. But Hizzoner said no dice.
Tensions between the retailer and Boston’s mayor-for-life are nothing new. Menino has previously criticized Wal-Mart’s wages and its brisk business selling guns, and he has said he’s “very concerned about how they treat their employees.”
There are bigger issues at play than salaries and union cards and gun sales, though.
Officials inside City Hall see Dudley Square’s revitalization as a legacy project for Menino. They would probably greet a Wal-Mart grocery store in Charlestown or Hyde Park with grudging acceptance.
In City Hall’s eyes, Dudley is different. City resources are flowing into the neighborhood. Menino is sinking real money into a new police station and a new school department headquarters. The Boston Redevelopment Authority is putting two strategic parcels in the neighborhood up for bid, and the redevelopment of the old neighborhood police station will follow. All of these projects involve public resources and publicly-owned land.
For Menino, it’s one thing to have Wal-Mart sign a lease on VFW Parkway, but it’s another to let a company he dislikes benefit from significant public investments.
The problem for Wal-Mart is that in Roxbury, the company’s preferred landing spot, all the big development parcels involve public land, giving Menino far greater leverage over what gets built on them. A long-vacant parcel across from Boston police headquarters is the only spot in the neighborhood that could handle a full-scale Wal-Mart store, but it is owned by the BRA. The BRA also controls the bidding for development parcels along Melnea Cass Boulevard. The Dudley spot where Wal-Mart had hoped to build its grocery store was formerly a state-owned bus yard, and the development will likely require public subsidies.
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