As a Georgia Tech student and Atlanta native, I hate the idea of another big-box retailer moving in to the Tech Square area when there is an abundance of local businesses that could take the place of the former Ribs n' Blues. Below is a letter I sent to President Bud Peterson, the Vice President of Campus Services (the organization who signed off on the Walmart), and the Dean of the Scheller College of Business.
Mr. Vice President,
I have recently heard through Creative Loafing Atlanta that Georgia Tech, in coordination with Campus Services, has signed a contract with Walmart to create an on-campus version of its store in Tech Square. After reading this, I had to voice my concern.
Tech Square was built in part to help revitalize the Midtown Atlanta district and encourage more growth. Part of the reason this construction took place was not only to create a better area, but to also better connect with the people, places, and history of Atlanta. This is why I am confused that the loss of an Atlanta small business (Ribs n' Blues) would immediately lead Campus Services to seek Walmart as a suitable replacement.
If we continue to fill Tech Square with big-box stores and national names instead of small businesses and locally-owned shops, the area will eventually be no more than a glorified strip mall. Midtown Atlanta has gone through tremendous change in the last decade, in no small part due to the focus on small businesses that define our city's culture and emerging landscape. I fear that implementing this Walmart will impede growth in this area, cause more local businesses to leave, and further erode the Tech Square area. After all, people want to live, work, and play in an area that is unique; a Walmart will make the street just another generic shopping district with little differentiation.
I completely understand that Campus Services must respond to an increased student push for easily available and low price goods, but there are other, more locally sensitive ways to achieve this goal. For example, Little's Food Store and Grill in the Cabbagetown neighborhood of Atlanta could serve these same needs, while still having a cafe that would make the area more appealing. I think it's also important to realize there is a Walmart Supercenter not 5 minutes away from campus on Howell Mill Road. MARTA services this location, and it is also accessible via bike. On the weekends, a Georgia Tech shuttle takes students to Atlantic Station where there is a Publix Supermarket and Target Supercenter also. Is another big-box store really what this area needs to thrive?
I ask that you and your constituents please reconsider bringing a Walmart to this area, and instead think about locally-owned small businesses to fill this spot in Tech Square. With time I am sure doing so would further revitalize the area we are in, and better connect our neighborhood with the rest of Midtown Atlanta.
Please call or email me should you have any questions or comments; I would be happy to speak with you. Thank you for your time and happy new year.
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