It's official: Walmart will move to Oakwood
In a March 22 press release, First Interstate Properties announced that Oakwood Commons will feature a Walmart Supercenter. According to the press release, Mitchell Schneider, president of First Interstate Properties, "has signed an agreement to bring a Walmart Supercenter to the new Oakwood Commons development in South Euclid."
In a separate March 22 press release, Walmart confirmed that the new Supercenter will replace the Walmart at Severance Center, and stated, "Construction of the 177,000-square-foot Supercenter at Oakwood Commons is set to begin this summer and is expected to open in the summer of 2013."
Commenting on the news, Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley stated, “I think we’ll turn this situation into a positive, and I look forward to the challenge. This is an opportunity for the owners of Severance Town Center and the City of Cleveland Heights to do something fresh and exciting with that space. For the owners, it’s an opportunity to improve the shopping experience at Severance.”
Fran Mentch is one of the leaders of Citizens for Oakwood, a group that sought to preserve the Oakwood property as green space and turn it into a park. Mentch describes the commercial development of Oakwood as “a failure of the city government.” She added, “The city governments in Cleveland Heights, South Euclid and University Heights need to think regionally and creatively. All thriving cities have the proper balance of green space, residential and commercial areas. These struggling suburbs have lost this proper balance.”
The press releases of both First Interstate and Walmart cite the “full line of groceries” that the new Walmart Supercenter will offer. John Zagara, president of Zagara’s Marketplace & Zagara's Catering in Cleveland Heights, said that for now he is taking a wait-and-see approach to determining what impact the new store will have on his business. “My inclination is to believe that the people who want to shop at big superstores are doing it already. I think many of my customers want a higher quality of food than supercenters can provide.”
Zagara continued, "I believe any company has the right to open for business and compete in any market. With that said, Walmart is in a class by itself. As many articles and books written on the subject have shown, Walmart simply doesn’t care what damage is left in its wake. Asking developers to build gargantuan retail space, to later abandon the property, while still paying rent, is reckless. Remodeling space instead, and helping to build a business community to serve a population is such a foreign thought to big box retailers like Walmart that it is only accomplished with a very big legal stick."
Kim Sergio Inglis
Kim Sergio Inglis is editor-in-chief of the Heights Observer. She lives in Cleveland Heights.