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Northcross is NOT "in a residential neighborhood"

One of the most odious talking points being thrown around with some effectiveness by "Responsible Growth For Northcross is the supposed fact that the development is in the middle of a neighborhood", in a residential neighborhood, etc.

It's also a load of crap.

Northcross Mall is surrounded by retail and hotel use on all sides. In several directions, you have to go a very long way before you hit what most people would consider "a neighborhood". Even in the closest direction, it's not very close.

Update: February 12, 2007: In the paragraphs below, I'm referring to the tilted axis of Austin's major roadways. If you fly directly west as the compass points, you do hit single-family residential use before you get all the way to Mopac. You can see this from the picture, of course, but some folks thought this was misleading, and I honestly forgot the difference, so keep this in mind.

To the north, you have a very wide swath of strip retail on both sides of Anderson Lane before you hit any residential development. To the east, you have a strip of retail on both sides of Burnet Road before you hit any residential development. To the west, you have to pass Mopac before you find any residential development. Only to the south is anything remotely close, and it's still not very close - you have strip retail and hotel use, and then a school property, before you come to any residential use.

If Northcross Mall is "in the middle of a neighborhood", in other words, so is Highland Mall and Barton Creek Square Mall and even Capital Plaza. To say nothing of the Whole Foods complex at 6th/Lamar which is certainly a lot closer to houses and apartments than is the Wal-Mart location. Should we disallow big boxes at these locations too? Because, after all, they're "in the middle of neighborhoods" as much as Northcross is.

This talking point is very effective, judging on how often it's being spewed on austinist and the Austin Chronicle. But it's a flat-out misrepresentation. Northcross Mall is NOT "in the middle of a neighborhood.

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No joke! I lived in Allendale for many years in the closest residential neighborhood (south) to the mall property. Barton Creek Square is MUCH closer to residential to it's North than Northcross is to the South.

I fail to understand the argument, and I am truly incensed by the "Stop the Big Bad Bentonville Behemoth At All Costs Despite the LAW" crowd. This is racism at worst and elitism at best. I bet a WalMart within a stones throw of houses in EAST Austin would not garner much opposition by the same WalMart haters.

And don't forget the six-story Chase bank office tower. By the anti-revitalisation folks' terms this office tower would be "in the middle of a residential neighborhood."

Let's assume for a second that Northcross Mall is in the middle of neighborhood (which it obviously isn't).

What, then, would "responsible growth" in that space entail? It seems this "in the middle of a neighborhood" argument will be trotted out to stall any sort of retail development that actually stands a chance of succeeding, or is too proletarian for the neighborhood group's taste.

For these groups, an ideal situation seems to be to keep Northcross as it is: essentially dead. "Responsible growth" = no growth, apparently.

Oh, great Ceasar's ghost, the line that opposition to Walmart is somehow racist is a prime example of right-wingnuttery. Please pack that away in the same dark closet where your fear of communists lives.

Speaking as someone living on the east side, you can bet your sweet bippy I'd be displeased to see a Walmart going in hereā€¦or anywhere else. Even our gracious host, M1EK, seems to view Walmart as the lesser of two evils in this case, not a positive good, and a test-case for broader principles.

Adam mostly has me nailed. But there IS some racism and elitism - you just have to read the allandale message board to find it; it's not very successfully hidden.

As for "Great Caesar's Ghost" - reminds me of trying to explain this comic book:


to my wife after my 2.5 year old picked it up and wanted her to read it to him yesterday... yes, the real Caesar's Ghost does, in fact, make an appearance.

"Oh, great Ceasar's ghost, the line that opposition to Walmart is somehow racist is a prime example of right-wingnuttery."

Except that, you know, there actually HAVE been racists comments. Not just a few. The proper thing to do is unambiguously, without qualifications, denounce it. None of this "it's a distraction" or "it's a right wing conspiracy" stuff.

Can you do that Adam? Some people have, but a surprisingly few number, even when confronted with the problem. It's a problem, not a distraction. The way to solve it is not by pretending it doesn't exist.

Can I sum it up this way, since I know most folks commenting on my blog are Good Folks:

1. Some (not all, but a non-trivial amount) of the opposition to this thing DOES stem on racist/classist/elitist grounds.

2. Those who want to say that all such comments and/or reasoning is just a trick to make the opponents look bad but are Good Folks (and thus not being disingenuous like some other people are) need to spend more time reading the allandale yahoo group (as I, and I know DSK, have done). Trust us - these attitudes do, in fact, exist and are shaping some, but again not all, of the opposition.

I live in Allendale and I can see Northcross from the end of the street. It is right in the middle of 4 resdiential areas: Allendale, Allendale North, Crestview and another (can't remeber the actual name)

My main objection is the traffic. I really don't feel like Burnet and Anderson can sustain the level of traffic. Subsequently, people will be "cutting through" neighborhoods undangering children, pedestrians, cyclists and all of the residents. Of course there are other factors, but that is my main complaint. I just don't think it is well thought out.


Again, by the same standard, Barton Creek Square needs to be closed; and the big Target at Capital Plaza should be razed; as well as the big Whole Foods at 6th Lamar. All of those are as close or more to residential neighborhoods as this part of Northcross is.

Bad time to be busy.

It's weird how many people care passionately about this -- even people like me who live a long way away and won't shop at Northcross no matter what's there.

Some locals are worried about traffic. It's hard to tell how many, because most retreat to this rationale if they start taking too much heat for another one. Personally, I think the traffic worries are overblown. Traffic's part of the price of living in a city anyway. But I don't really have anything else to say to someone who cites traffic.

Traffic doesn't have large crowds turning out at City Hall.

The incendiary issues, as I see them:

1. Class. Wal-Mart doesn't have much to offer besides low prices. As a result, it's become a rough class divider. People who've spent $300,000 on a small bungalow with bamboo floors may see one setting up nearby as a slap to their upper-middle-class aspirations.

2. Race. I agree that's some of it. Watch for the code phrase, "that clientele."

3. Urban vs. suburban design. Some people oppose this because they want a more urban, denser project there. (Not many neighbors, I suspect.) I'm somewhat sympathetic to this argument, but you don't get to dictate the alternative -- you might get stuck with a giant used car lot.

4. The "Wal-Mart is evil" campaign. It's fashionable among economic luddites to bash Wal-Mart as bad for the local economy, bad for workers, bad for local businesses, etc. This group sees Wal-Mart as a moral issue (although I suspect that some of them are just dressing up their class prejudices.) They've turned Northcross into a recruiting tool.

There's something for everyone.

I even agree with #4. Wal-Mart _IS_ evil. Compared to other low-price providers like Target and Costco, they treat their employees and customers like crap.

Problem is that neither Target nor Costco wants in.

"Again, by the same standard, Barton Creek Square needs to be closed; and the big Target at Capital Plaza should be razed; as well as the big Whole Foods at 6th Lamar."

Faulty comparisons in the extreme. Barton Creek is fronted on two sides by major highways. Target at Capital Plaza is on I-35. The footprint the Whole Foods store consumes is 1/10th the size of Northcross, and the developers took pains to make it pedestrian-friendly. As for Highland Mall, were you aware that there are already plans to close it down and convert the property to mixed-use? (e.g. the kind of thing the Northcross neighborhood associations would love to see instead of Wal-Mart) It's pretty much toast once The Domain opens early next year.

Personally, I have no more moral issue with Wal-Mart than I would any other big-box retailer, but there is no effective argument that Northcross NEEDS a Wal-Mart, given that there's an existing store less than two miles away, and there's no logical reason why residents shouldn't be allowed at least a voice in what happens in their neighborhoods. (And btw your argument that that Northcross isn't "in the middle of a neighborhood" is ridiculous. Are you being overly literal for argument's sake? Look at your own area map: there's a residential neighborhood catty-corner across the street (behind the NE corner of Anderson and Burnet) and another one west of Northcross Dr. The fact that there are no houses/apartment complexes LITERALLY touching the edges of the Northcross property is irrelevant.)

I stand by the comparison. All of the developments mentioned are as close OR CLOSER to single-family residential development than is Northcross. If you're calling Northcross "in the middle of a neighborhood", you've defined that phrase so broadly that it's completely lost any useful meaning.

And I didn't even go into all the other big boxes around town.

As for "on the highway", I've addressed that before - it's a CON, not a PRO. You stick one of these on a frontage road, and you're guaranteeing that neither the patrons nor the workers can practically take public transportation to the store.

"Wal-Mart _IS_ evil."

I can't tell, but I suspect you're half joking.

Anyway, I don't think Wal-Mart is evil.

Target and (I hear) Costco are nicer places to shop than Wal-Mart -- better stuff, wider aisles, etc., but this doesn't make Wal-Mart evil, just a less pleasant place to shop.

If Wal-Mart were Target or Costco, of course, then consumer products would be a lot more expensive across the board (even at Target and Costco).

I'll wade into the "Wal-Mart underpays its employees" debate some other time, but the short answer is "Not true," at least not in a labor market like Austin, where Wal-Mart can't affect the prevailing wage, i.e., is a price taker.

No, I'm not joking; I'm enough of an impure marketatarian to believe that Wal-Mart's treating their employees like crap isn't an unmitigated good thing, and can't always be fixed by laissez-faire. Certainly you're right that in areas which have actual competition, they'll have a harder time Being Evil, but they certainly are evil where they lack said competition (after destroying it). None of those small towns are big enough to support two big boxes, of course, so competition will never fix it back.

Jeff, if M1EK's comparison is off, I'll do you one better. Using your criteria, the whole of Anderson Lane between Mopac and Burnet is invading on those neighborhoods. Should we just go ahead and level all of it, too?

What should go in Northcross, then? A few low-traffic shops (ie what's there now)? How would a dense mixed-use project on the Northcross site be preferable to the neighborhood associations if their concerns are supposedly traffic and noise?

I was up at Terra Toys this weekend - that is sooooo not in the middle of a neighborhood. It's in the middle of a bunch of butt-ugly strip malls.

The arguement is a 24 hour Walmart-SUPER HUGE monster-would negatively impact the neighborhoods that are near Anderson and Burnet. If it were open until 9pm, the size of Bealls, not adding a parking garage...I doubt you'd hear so much opposition, probably muttering. So what's with you and your love of a religion of consumerism? You have to go out and buy shit at 3am? You like Wal Mart because you hate Austin and the type of residents it attracts. You a homeowner? Can you even buy a home in this town? I find the most contrary and reactionary citizens in this town are only bitter that they can't purchase a home for one reason or another. Something about you is truly bitter. Northcross mall is surronded by neighborhoods sans the area nearest Mopac, even then, it houses apt dwellers. This places Northcross in the middle of several neighborhoods, not just one. Your blog looks good but you haven't got anything, that I have seen, that comes close to being considered intelligent or well thought out. You want to be KOS but your a bit too devilishy juvenile to pull it off. Blog looks good though.


"Allen Eckland":

I own not one, but two, homes, both in neighborhoods more central than Allandale. Both in neighborhoods where I wouldn't dream of telling a retail landlord that he couldn't rent to Wal-Mart. Both in neighborhoods which make Allandale's traffic look rural.

Who the hell are you?

Re: Mr Eckland...

"So what's with you and your love of a religion of consumerism? You have to go out and buy shit at 3am?"

No...most "white collar" 9 to 5ers do not shop at 3 am...but us "low class, blue collar, specific clientele" that work 3rd shift DO need to shop at 3 am.

3 am is our 6 pm to you...I go to the grocery store after i get off work and before I go home.

Because it's not the same schedule as yours, I'm now subscribing to a "religion of consumerism?"

It's not a race thing...it's a perceived CLASS thing...don't let 'em fool you on that one.

No one needs to shop at 3am, especially blue collars who are off at that time, they need to save their hard earned money and get to bed.

Meek! You are a shit, I wouldn't doubt if you post under other names, like "me" for instance? Yeah sure you work, sure you own two homes that just happen to be in this neighborhood. I think you mostly stay home, play with yourself then get online to argue, you'll argue anything, you'll argue to the point of contradiction. I think you are a renter, you are unemployed or a state worker and you are not smart. You don't get laid either. Any man who does has better things to do than sit on his brains watching this site arguing for what? What is it you stand for? I wish I could stick around and see whatever you type back at me but uh....not coming back to this site. It isn't informative, it isn't smart, it isn't even enetratining because it's all you and you are quite the bore. Carry on.

Entertaining that is....this isn't. Bye Bye one note Johnny.

Dear about-to-be-banned dumbass:

Check TravisCAD.


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