Retail giant Wal Mart is expected to announce plans to open a Wal Mart Supercenter outlet on Hawthorne Blvd, company officials say.
The proposal, which is being negotiated by Wal Mart executives and Portland city council members would entail demolition of l businesses and residences in an area bounded by Hawthorne Blvd. on the north, Harrison st. on the South, 34th avenue on the west, and 37th avenue on the east. The deal between the city of Portland and Wal Mart is expected to be finalized as early as July. Upon finalization, residents and business owners will likely be given six months to vacate. "With that scenario, we'd like to begin demolition and construction early next year, and be operational in time for the 2004 holiday season",said Wal Mart Northwestern division manager Gordon Hibbs.
The Hawthorne Place project, which is under construction on the corner of 34th and Hawthorne will continue as planned, and among others, tenants will include a military recruitment center and a car title loan office.
The project has received backing from Texas billionare Red "Uncle Grandpa" Randall who has offered to donate an undisclosed amount of funds to pay out all property owners on the Wal Mart site. "We are not at liberty to discuss the amount involved, but it will be plenty to offer each property owner considerably more than the current market value of their home or commercial property" said Hibbs. Portland mayor Vera Katz, as well as Portland Business Alliance president Kim Kimbrough also enthusiastically back the project.
Wal Mart officials acknowledge the fact that this move will anger area residents and business owners, and fuel bitter protests. But Hibbs asserts that his company will not back down. "Wal Mart has leveled schools, historical landmarks, indian burial grounds, and old growth forest to build stores, so don't think that we won't do it" asserts Hibbs. "Sam Walton himself used to say that nothing is more sacred than low prices, selection, value and friendly sales associates" In a further slap in the face to the opposition, there are tenative plans for a Jack in the Box restaurant to be built in the Wal Mart parking lot on the southwest corner of 37th and Hawthorne across from the Bagdad theater.
In addition to compensating the homeowners displaced by the store, Wal Mart will offer jobs to business owners and employees in the affected area. "We are excited about the possibility of these individuals joining the Wal Mart team" said Denise Fogle, human resources manager for Wal Mart. "Their creativity and entrepeneurial skills will translate to outstanding customer service skills within the Wal Mart structure." One of the businesses, Coffee People, located on 35th and Hawthorne will likely set up shop inside Wal Mart.
Fogle expressed the importance of the new store blending into the community. "In addition to Coffee People, this store will stock a variety of incense and organic food products we understand the neighborhood residents enjoy. And our music department will feature "Alternative" music, which we understand is also popular on Hawthorne, such as Green Day and Dave Matthews Band." Also, Wal Mart plans to bend their conservative grooming code for employees to allow male employees to grow a soul patch. "We understand soul patches are also very popular on Hawthorne as well. See, Wal Mart can be hip!" Fogle laughed..
Hibbs is confident that once Wal Mart is is established as the anchor of the Hawthorne community, residents will not likely mourn the loss of the businesses and homes replaced by the store. "Besides, we'll run Fred Meyer out of there in short order, and they can open their hippie shops back up over there."