Miami’s planning director has given Walmart the green light to build a new store in the city's Midtown district. However, Walmart still has more hoops to jump through before it can carve out a place in Midtown.
It’s been a two-year battle for the retailer associated with boxy, suburban stores to win the right to build in the trendy, urban neighborhood.
Walmart can now apply for a building permit since Miami’s Planning Director Francisco Garcia decided the company’s plans meet the local zoning code.
“The emphasis is to create an attractive environment for the pedestrian,” explained Garcia. “Truck unloading, parking components et cetera, we try to conceal them from public view as one is walking up and down the street. This project does that.”
Renderings of the construction plans show a design that is certainly not the traditional, cylinder block super store plopped on one side of a massive asphalt parking lot. The Midtown design basically hides the Walmart store behind glass facades and other storefronts while tucking the parking lots away on the second and third floors.
But facades are not enough for opponents who claim a Walmart will still ruin Midtown’s vibe. Miami resident and real estate consultant Grant Stern has been fighting the proposed store. He doesn’t believe Walmart’s design plans go far enough.
“There’s too much parking, there’s too many loading bays, the design of the entire block is disjointed,” said Stern. “It doesn’t match the original Midtown, it would create an auto wasteland,” specifically, according to Stern, because of increased traffic from customers and delivery trucks.
Opponents also say Walmart will drive out locally owned businesses nearby. Walmart and its supporters counter that the store construction will create jobs and, once completed, provide a low-price alternative to more expensive retailers in the area.
Either way, the two sides have more time to make their cases as the Midtown Walmart saga plods on. Garcia’s decision may be appealed within the next two weeks, which Stern plans to do. The mega retailer must also obtain a building permit for the Midtown location which in itself is a multi-step process involving several government agencies.