NOW THAT Wal-Mart is rumored to be eyeing an 8.5 acre site in Roxbury, Mayor Menino has come out against big chain stores moving into the Dudley Square neighborhood. He made his point recently by telling Wal-Mart to consider the former MBTA maintenance facility off-limits - even though Wal-Mart hasn’t even drawn up a formal proposal for the eyesore of a lot yet.
The mayor is worried that a Wal-Mart could undercut local retailers in Roxbury, but considering that several national chains -- like Walgreens, Dunkin’ Donuts, FootLocker, and Ashley Stewart -- already operate in Dudley Square, the mayor’s opposition seems less of a principled stance than a vendetta against one particular chain. Wal-Mart has indeed been a flashpoint; it’s been accused of elbowing out local businesses in other places and replacing them with low-wage jobs. For its part, the chain claims it’s tailoring its size and labor practices to meet local norms.
Wal-Mart deserves the same chance as any other company to present ideas for whatever site it eventually zeroes in on. An appropriately sized store that provides fresh produce, low-cost goods, and jobs would be a welcome upgrade for the Dudley Square site, which currently houses a vast, crumbling warehouse wrapped in rusty fences and barbed wire.
If the mayor wants to take issue with the specifics of Wal-Mart’s proposal, he should. But he should wait to see a proposal first.