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Baltimore: City Council Approves Walmart Proposal

November 22, 2010
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BALTIMORE -- Plans to build a 330,000-square-foot shopping center on landmark ground in north Baltimore can proceed, and so will efforts to impose a living wage.

All but one member of the Baltimore City Council voted Monday to approve a planned use development designation allowing construction of a shopping complex that will be anchored by a Walmart store in north Baltimore's Remington community.

The 25th Street Station project will take over the corner where Anderson Chevrolet stood for decades. The development is expected to create 400 construction jobs and 750 permanent ones.

The plans also include the city's first Lowe's Home Improvement center and smaller specialty shops. The proposal also provides space for 70 to 90 residential units and 1,100 parking places.

"It's been a very well-thought out, long process to make sure communities were heard and to preserve neighborhoods as much as possible," said Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, D-7th District.

Councilman Carl Stokes, D-District 12, abstained from voting.

Living Wage Battle Continues

Protesters failed to convince a single lawmaker to vote against the project. The protesters wanted Walmart to agree to pay workers a living wage of $10.59 per hour instead of a $7.25 minimum wage.

Baltimore CAN, a coalition of labor and community groups, rallied Monday in support of living wages. | VIEW RALLY PHOTOS

The protesters called on the mayor and City Council to make paying a living wage a condition of Walmart opening a store at Howard and West 25th streets.

"We just want to make sure we have smart development and that Walmart takes care of the city," said CAN organizer Lisa Kramer.

"We want to see local hiring so city residents benefit from this project," said Rion Dennis, the director of Progressive Maryland.

Progressive Maryland and labor groups said they will now focus on lobbying the City Council to pass a bill increasing the living wage in effect in the city since 1994. That law only affects city contractors to pay workers, mandating them to pay an hourly rate set by the Board of Estimates.

"There is a living wage bill before City Council. Right now, it is stuck in committee," Dennis said.

Councilwoman Mary-Pat Clarke, D-District 14, said Monday's vote does not kill efforts to mandate a living wage. She said she's sponsoring a bill that would affect all retailers in Baltimore City that gross $10 million a year in sales.

If that bill passes, it would affect Walmart.

Meanwhile, some city residents said they will take any paycheck they can get in this tough economy.

"I'm not above working for low wages, because something is better than nothing at all," said Elloise Thompson.

Remington Seeks Traffic Enhancements

Remington neighborhood leaders said they worked with city transportation officials and the site's developers to improve traffic conditions. There's an agreement to install traffic calming measures such as speed bumps and turn signals, and there will be designated bike lanes and pedestrian crossings.

"We walk. I'm going to get a little shopping cart, and I'm going to get whatever I need over there. It is going to be wonderful," said Judith Kunst, the president of the Greater Remington Improvement Association.

Walmart said it wants to build a 93,000-square-foot store in that space that will include a supermarket, produce section and pharmacy.

Protesters said they also worry that Walmart will put locally owned stores out of business.