A proposal for a Sam's Club in East Dallas has drawn hasty but impassioned protests from neighbors who are acting quickly to stop it.
The Sam's is being developed by Trammell Crow Co., which bought 17 acres of land at US Highway 75 and Haskell Avenue in 2013. The DMN reported that Crow unveiled its plans for a complex called the East Village, with an unpleasant surprise in the center: a large Sam’s Club store and several small retail buildings lined up along the frontage road.
The news hit neighbors in the area hard. They've responded with a petition which has garnered nearly 1,500 signatures, criticizing the "bait and switch approach" that Crow used for the purchase and development of the property and calling for better use of this "jewel of a property and location."
"Once they come in, it will ruin the fabric of the neighborhood,"Jonas Park says.
The group held a grass-roots meeting on Wednesday night at the Kroger supermarket on Lemmon Avenue, and will attend a May 22 meeting of The City Planning Commission, which unfortunately recommended a change in zoning back in February. The neighbors know that it may be too late but hope that they can delay the approval to give more time for consideration, says organizer Jonas Park.
Park lives and works in the neighborhood and says that it will destroy the character and increase traffic and crime.
"Legally, there's nothing we can do about it. But once they come in, it will ruin the fabric of the neighborhood," he says. "Right now, we're just trying to get a delay of 30 days so we can review what they are proposing."
Architecture critic Mark Lamster is joining the chorus of voices opposed to the development. "A massive big box retailer is precisely what this area between high-density, and pedestrian friendly Uptown and historic East Dallas does not need," he wrote.
Part of what has Park and his colleagues concerned is not only the business itself but also what feels like a deceptive attitude.
"We feel like they did the zoning change in a stealthy manner," he says. "No one knew about it because it was such a fast-tracked process. After the initial presentation, they changed it later on to include a 100,000-square-foot store which was not initially included. There are other things we are finding out — which is why we need the extra time."
Park says he's not anti-development, but cites other big-box store failures inside the city and the negative effect they've had on their neighborhoods. The relationship between WalMart and crime is so pronounced that it has been dubbed "the Walmart Effect on Crime."
"If you look at where the Sam’s Club was on Park and Greenville, and how terrible it is now — the crime rate goes up whenever a Sam’s Club or WalMart leaves because no one can occupy that big of a space, and then you have all the trash issues and the traffic," Park says, adding that the
Center for Blind People Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind and a local middle school are also in close proximity to the would-be Sam's Club.
"How is bringing in a 100,000-square-foot store going to affect them? It seems like the developer has no concern," Park says. "What many people don’t realize is that it’s not progress. It’s going backwards."
UPDATE: The City Plan Commission delayed approval of the Sam's Club. A public hearing is scheduled for July 10.