At a recent public forum, Decatur residents expressed their fears and concerns about a proposed plan to build a Super Wal-Mart in the Suburban Plaza, located on North Decatur Road between Church Street and Medlock Road.
Residents who live in the area are concerned about the parking problems and the increased traffic that the discount retail store will bring to an already congested area. Other residents fear what a Super Wal-Mart will do to businesses in the area. “We built Decatur with small businesses,” said Melanie White, who presented a petition signed by 378 Decatur residents opposed to Selig Enterprises planned redevelopment of the aging Suburban Plaza.
The project calls for the “demolition of approximately 144,000 square feet of existing commercial space and the addition of 149,000 square feet for a new total shopping center square footage of 324,614,” according to a Development of Regional Impact statement filed by DeKalb County. The 290,000-square-foot Suburban Plaza, which opened in 1959, is anchored by Big Lots and the Suburban Bowling facility and has approximately 1,100 parking spaces.
“Everybody says that small businesses are the backbone of America, yet small businesses are the first to go. [Selig] is not going to renew our leases,” said a disgruntled shop owner who has been at the plaza for 11 years.
The proposed store, at roughly 150,000 square feet will have a grocery as well as a pharmacy department and Wal-Mart officials say that the Arkansas-based retailer will bring an estimated 250 to 300 jobs to DeKalb County.
The DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals recently granted Selig Enterprises a parking variance that would allow the developer to have 3.91 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of floor space, instead of the required 5.5 spaces per 1,000 square feet. Selig stated that the extra spaces are not necessary because the area has a sufficient amount of public transportation.
“I think some of the opposition is about Wal-Mart but a lot of it has to do with fear of the unknown,” said developer Scott Selig in a recent statement to the press. “This development will be an asset to the community; it will be one that’s used,” said Selig. “It will provide jobs; it will provide the economic boost to the immediate area and to the county that’s much needed today.”
—Deanna L. Cauthen