LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A big-box retailer may be coming to a piece of abandoned Louisville land but not everyone is pleased. Walmart is reported to be considering a new store at the site of the old Phillip Morris plant at 18th and Broadway in the West End.
Both the mayor's office and Walmart said there is nothing they could report, although all signs are the retail giant is bringing its bargain prices to Broadway.
February 1999, Phillip Morris announced it was shutting down its Louisville site. The following year the West End plant closed its doors for good and the property has been sitting around ever since but the idea of a Walmart filling the wide open spaces isn't sitting well with some.
"What I found was that when Walmart comes in, jobs don't come in with it," said Avery Lolers with the Kentucky Labor Institute.
KLI as well as Kentucky Jobs With Justice set up shop Monday at the site to say thanks, but no thanks.
"On this day in which we honor the life and legacy of Dr. King, I hope that we would dream for a better economic vision for west Louisville," said economic development specialist Cassia Herron.
"This neighborhood needs investment," Kolers said. "The question is what kind of investment would be the right kind of investment for the neighborhood."
The group said the jobs Walmart brings are low-paying and the retail giant forces other surrounding local business to go under, meaning a net loss of jobs for the area.
"The whole point of Walmart is that you get everything that you need there," Kolers said. "So somebody who comes here to shop at Walmart isn't going to stop at the place across the street that also sells something else that Walmart sells but for more."
Although a spokesperson for the company, Anne Hatfield, wouldn't confirm Walmart was interested in opening Broadway and 18th, she did say it's a site that has sat empty for the last 14 years, meaning lost money and revenue for the community. In addition she says that historically, Walmart has been an anchor for other businesses to flourish around it because of the shopping traffic it brings. Hatfield says Walmart employs 28,000 people in Kentucky with an average wage of more than $13 an hour and did $1.5 billion in business with Kentucky suppliers in fiscal year 2013.
A former resident who still shops in the neighborhood hopes that's what happens in the West End.
"I think Walmart would be great coming to this area because they'll bring in jobs for the people that don't have jobs in the community," said Anthony Maddox, "and it also will make people want to come to the community more without worrying about the crime rate in the area."
Kentucky Jobs With Justice has a history of protesting Walmart because of wage and labor issues and it points out that last week the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Walmart, accusing it of threatening or disciplining workers that participated in Black Friday protests in 2012.
A spokesperson for the mayor's office, Chris Poynter, said they're still in negotiations with an unnamed retailer and city money will probably be involved in the development. Poynter added he believes the majority of west end residents will be very pleased to see significant development in their area for the first time.