Kapolei residents opposing Wal-Mart
A community group has begun waging a public campaign against the new Wal-Mart proposed for Kapolei.
Besides waving signs on the street and knocking on doors in the Kapolei neighborhood distributing flyers, Kapolei First is planning to make its case at a neighborhood board meeting this evening.
"Wal-Mart has billions of dollars to spend on sneaking this into our community," said the group's spokeswoman, Carolyn Golojuch. "We have to inform our neighbors about the unprecedented traffic nightmare that is being presented."
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced Friday that it plans to open on a 25-acre site on a corner of Makakilo Drive and Farrington Highway after traffic improvements are completed in 2008.
The store, it said, would be similar in size to the Wal-Mart in Pearl City, which opened in January and measures about 148,000 square feet.
Typically, Wal-Mart discount stores measure about 101,000 square feet; Sam's Clubs normally measure about 130,000 square feet. A neighborhood Wal-Mart market, found only on the mainland, measures about 41,000 square feet, according to the Wal-Mart corporate Web site.
Across Hawaii, Wal-Mart has seven discount stores and two Sam's Clubs. The combined Wal-Mart and Sam's Club on Keeaumoku Street, which opened in October 2004, measure about 300,000 square feet total.
A matter of size
The Kapolei community originally expected a "supercenter," which Wal-Mart defines as a store with an average size of 185,000 square feet, wider aisles and a larger selection of merchandise than its conventional discount stores.
Wal-Mart has more than 2,000 supercenters across the nation, including three it opened in New York state this month. The supercenter in Norwich, N.Y., measures 195,248 square feet and offers organic, Hispanic and kosher foods, a fresh produce section, a bakery and deli.
In its statement issued yesterday, Kapolei First said Wal-Mart was intentionally trying to confuse the public by claiming the Kapolei store is not a true supercenter.
The group also alleges that Wal-Mart has told employees at its Kunia store that it will be closing when the Kapolei store opens.
"They act as if a 150,000-square-foot store, twice the size of a regular Wal-Mart, isn't going to cause congestion and problems, simply because they don't call it a 'supercenter,'" group member Danielle Swenson said. "Have you tried to drive by the store they are comparing it to in Pearl Highlands? We don't need that much more traffic in Kapolei."
Wal-Mart said it chose the Kapolei location for its eighth Hawaii store because it is a growing community that could benefit from its pricing. The giant retailer donated $35,000 at the grand opening of the Pearl City Wal-Mart to a number of groups, ranging from Aloha United Way to local schools to the Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii.
"Whenever we open a new store, we expect organized opposition," Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin McCall said yesterday. "We respect people's right to speak their minds and are committed to address their legitimate concerns. However, we will not respond to baseless accusations or personal attacks."
Campbell Estate spokeswoman Theresia McMurdo said a developer is still under contract to purchase the Kapolei site, but that the deal is not yet final.
Maeda Timson, chairwoman of the Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale neighborhood board, said she's been flooded with calls from both concerned residents and small businesses.
Timson said the board has concerns about traffic, but needs more clarification on Wal-Mart's plans before it can comment further.
"We received rumors several months ago that Wal-Mart was coming to Kapolei," she said. "But no one spoke to us, so we asked Campbell Estate to connect us."
The scheduled presentation this evening will be the first time Wal-Mart has met with the board, she said.
A Web site, KapoleiFirst.com, offers an online petition against the proposed Wal-Mart, saying it should not be allowed to move forward until the city has adequate roadways. The petition notes that 24-hour retail supercenters tend to be magnets for crime.
As of yesterday afternoon, the online petition had 46 signatures. Kapolei has 84,150 residents.
Kapolei is already home to several developments, including a regional mall and other big-box retailers such as Home Depot and Big Kmart.
Costco is also planning to open at Kapolei, but closer to the entrance of Campbell Industrial Park.
"The locations are like day and night," Timson said. "Costco is at the opposite end, and Wal-Mart is at the heart of the traffic destruction. Plus, Costco is not planning to stay open 24 hours."
MEET ON WAL-MART
The Makakilo/Kapolei/ Honokai Hale neighborhood board:
Time: 7 p.m. tonight
Place: Kapolei High School cafeteria,
91-5007 Kapolei Parkway