“Hey hey! Ho ho! Walmart has got to go!” was the rally cry of around 50 Bowie residents protesting an Walmart superstore coming to their community.
Residents were notified in March 2013 that Duvall Village shopping center off Annapolis Road was slated to receive a Super Walmart, said Jennifer Dwyer of Bowie, one of the community group’s organizers.
About 400 community members have signed a petition so far against the store, citing concerns about traffic congestion, parking lot crime and the addition of low-wage jobs instead of higher-earning jobs, she said.
“Overall, my community feels that our county deserves higher quality retail and employment opportunities than a Super Walmart can provide,” said Dwyer, 27. “Prince George’s County can do better.”
Walmart’s site plan, including the traffic and parking plan, was approved by the Prince George’s County planning board in April and the corporation is currently awaiting the appropriate building permits, said Amanda Henneberg, a Walmart spokeswoman.
Henneberg said the Walmart will be replacing a Superfresh that previously occupied the storefront and will therefore not be creating any new issues for the community.
“Our infill project will fit within and improve the design of the existing shopping center,” she said. “Our proposed store will revitalize a space that has remained dormant for years and will include improvements to the surrounding area to ensure the proper flow of traffic and a safe and comfortable experience for all shoppers.”
Clemmie Strayhorn, 78, who said he has lived in Bowie for 30 years, added that the Walmart is unnecessary and will impede traffic. He said area residents who wish to patronize Walmart can drive to the Capital Plaza Walmart, about nine miles away.
“I just think it’s absurd to think about putting a big box store in the middle of an upscale neighborhood,” he said. “The road is not designed to take the kind of traffic this would bring. This is not right, I don’t have a good feeling about this.”
Joyce White, 69, of Bowie said she thinks the superstore will drive out smaller, privately-owned stores and depreciate area home values.
“We need our mom and pop stores. We don’t need Walmart to come in,” she said. “We don’t even have enough space for parking.”
Marquette Douglas of Bowie, owner of Bowie One barbershop in the Duvall Village shopping center, said he thinks a Walmart would be good for area businesses.
“A lot of people are saying we want a Trader Joes or something like that [instead of a Walmart], but it’s not like the landlord has a position where he can pick and choose who comes,” he said. “I need a store like Walmart to come to the shopping center. I know it has staying power and I shop at Walmart.”
Phillip Billings, 57, of Lanham said he lives about five minutes from the Duvall Village shopping center and is also in favor of the new Walmart.
“Walmart is a good store. I think they do pretty good business,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be much of a problem. It’s a three-lane highway. I don’t think its going to bother the area [traffic] that much.”
Dwyer said the next step for her group is to raise more awareness about the proposed development and continue to petition the county council to stop the process.
“We’re just going to keep pressing forward, keep making our voices heard and continue the neighbor-to-neighbor conversation,” she said. “Really it’s just about raising awareness and making sure our government knows that we don’t want this.”