Case of the Man Holding Us Down

Sand Springs Mayor Bob Walker wants retail giant Wal-Mart to lift restrictions he says are hindering new business in the area. If he doesn’t get it, Walker said, he’s considering options ranging from a press conference to calling for a boycott of the store.
When the new Wal-Mart Supercenter opened, the store in the Springs Village Shopping Center, near 38th Street and Highway 97 closed. When Wal-Mart sold the building in 2003, it placed a “no-compete” clause in the deed, which prevented a company that competes with Wal-Mart from moving in.
Considering the wide range of items sold at a Wal-Mart Supercenter, that clause seems to prohibit nearly all retail establishments.
But Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Thornton said the clause only prohibited other discount stores, wholesale clubs, or pharmacies from moving in.
Since 2003, Thornton said, the chain has changed the way it does business when selling an old building.
“That’s not our policy any more, so we’re looking at relaxing those (restrictions on the Sand Springs site),” Thornton said.
A verbal promise was not enough for Walker.
“It’s a start,” he said Friday night. “But I want something in writing.”
There is no reason to keep such a clause, Walker said.
He said the restrictions have left a potential source of tax revenue for the city untapped. It has also left the Springs Village shopping center without an anchor store.
Thornton said that Wal-Mart is currently at a 10-year low of the amount of square footage of former stores up for lease.
“We have an aggressive marketing program to market properties before we even move out,” Thornton said. “It’s in Wal-Mart’s best interest to find a tenant for the property… We do want to work with local buyers and the local community.”
“I would hope their leasing agent is out beating the bushes,” Sand Springs Area Chamber of Commerce President J.C. Kinder said. “Trying to find somebody to take a 90,000 SF building is difficult.”
“It may take a grass-roots effort; writing letters or e-mails,” Walker said.
“Maybe our citizens need to boycott Wal-Mart for 30-45 days,” he said Friday. “I don’t know that that would work, though.” ?



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