Decatur residents sound off on proposed Walmart

More than 250 people packed church Thursday night to discuss how they plan to block big-box retailer


  • Dustin Chambers
  • Residents of neighborhoods surrounding Suburban Plaza say Walmart would kill local businesses and worsen traffic

More than 250 people packed North Decatur Presbyterian Church's basement last night to discuss how they plan to block a Walmart that Atlanta-based developer Selig Enterprises wants to set up shop in its mammoth Suburban Plaza just outside Decatur.

For nearly two hours, men, women, and even a child stood before the crowd and — except for one defender of the big-box retailer — said Walmart would cause additional traffic congestion at the six-road intersection and endanger nearby independent businesses. Selig has been in talks with Walmart and DeKalb County since last year about replacing the building that currently houses the Last Chance Thrift Shop and a mattress store with a 149,000-square foot SuperCenter.

Organized by Good Growth DeKalb, a nonprofit group created to fight the development, the meeting included the organization's lawyer and input from a member of another group fighting a similar Selig proposal for downtown Athens.

Many residents questioned how the store and the additional traffic it would generate might affect ambulances traveling to and from nearby DeKalb Medical Center. Others focused on the potential threat to surrounding businesses, particularly existing stores in Suburban Plaza. One attendee said that, should additional Walmarts proposed throughout DeKalb County get built, she'd soon have no other choice but to shop at the big-box retailer.

Good Growth DeKalb and community residents are brainstorming an alternate vision for the property, with proposals ranging from restoring the 1950s strip mall to its retro heyday or adding greenspace to the land. It's also hired a lawyer to help them monitor developments in the proposal.

"This is a war for your community," said Donald Stack, Good Growth DeKalb's counsel, told the crowd. "This is a war for your property values. This is a war for your safety. If you look at it that way, you don't have one battle in the war. It's long term."

More photos after the jump