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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

New Walmart may be go-to for students

Hailey+Eisenbach+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AConstruction+for+a+new+Walmart+has+begun+at+the+El+Con+Mall+Regional+Shopping+Center.
Hailey Eisenbach
Hailey Eisenbach / Arizona Daily Wildcat Construction for a new Walmart has begun at the El Con Mall Regional Shopping Center.

Construction for a Walmart at El Con Mall, less than three miles from campus, is underway despite opposition from the surrounding neighborhood.

The new location, which is set to open at 3601 E. Broadway Blvd. in the fall of 2013, is expected to benefit students due to its proximity to campus and low prices.

Walmart’s large variety of products make it a huge benefit for students, according to Susan Allen, director of marketing and public relations for El Con Mall. Alissa Smith, an undeclared freshman, said that Walmart is a good resource for students like herself who are away from home and on a low budget.

“We’re students and we don’t have our parents so it’d be easier to shop somewhere where it’s really cheap and close,” Smith said. “We need a huge market like that.”

Despite its convenience and prices, some students said that the location is still a little far from campus. Greg Kavoklis, a finance junior, said he would shop at Walmart for “odds and ends” such as light bulbs and other household needs, but that getting there could be troublesome.

“I think it is not convenient to bike there,” Kavoklis said, “so I would suggest maybe a CatTran or some type of bus system.”

Steve Kozachik, city council member of Ward 6, which includes the university and the site of the new Walmart, said the store will probably not rely on the student population for profit.

“I’m not sure that Walmart is particularly targeting college students in their demographic in terms of making this store profitable,” Kozachik said.

While Walmart has already broken ground in the footprint where Macy’s once stood, there were some legal attempts to impede Walmart from building at the location. The city of Tucson and El Con made a development agreement about a decade ago, according to Kozachik, which is good for 20 years.

El Encanto Estates Homeowners Association, the neighborhood association in the community west of El Con, filed a lawsuit against the city in June, saying that the agreement should have expired in three years, Kozachik said. The courts ruled in favor of the city, confirming that the agreement was good for 20 years, leaving it up to El Con to decide whether to open the agreement again for renegotiation.

Despite the opposition, Allen said the store will work well in that particular location, and that the charges are now irrelevant.

“The charges that have been brought against have been dismissed in court,” Allen said. “We are free to build a Walmart and that’s exactly what we are going to do. And we believe it’s a good fit for El Con.”

Some of the neighborhood’s concerns about having a Walmart so close include studies that show an increase in crime rates where a Walmart is built. These safety concerns go hand-in-hand with having a store open 24 hours, according to Bonnie Sedlmayr-Emerson, a retired teacher who lives at El Encanto. Some community members also don’t like that Walmart sells alcohol and weapons and ammunition.

With the development now inevitable, nearby residents have made attempts to compromise on several issues with the corporation regarding the new store.

Another request from the neighborhood residents was that Walmart have their entrance facing south toward Broadway Boulevard rather than west toward the neighborhood. Kozachik said he talked to Walmart representatives, El Con representatives and El Encanto community members in attempt to address these issues.

Although Walmart refused to close their store overnight and refused to face their entrance south, they did agree to not sell weapons at that location. The Walmart will still sell alcohol.

Despite a few agreements, Sedlmayr-Emerson said she wasn’t convinced that corporate managers were interested in how members of the neighboring community felt.

“Had they faced it toward Broadway, that might have made a difference,” Sedlmayr-Emerson said. “We could have seen that they were trying to be good neighbors.”

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