Sam's Club and beyond
The news broke this week that Walmart is closing about 10% of its Sam's Club stores nationwide, including the one at Country Club Centre. According to the Sacramento Bee story, the Country Club Centre one will be shuttered as of January 26th. And according to the buzz around the nearby neighborhoods, the Walmart at Watt and El Camino is also going to shut down, perhaps as soon as February 9th. Brick-and-mortar retail is changing, the Buzz Oates Group sold the property to out-of-town investors, and the bean counters in Bentonville AR have spoken. Given the persistence of trash, homeless encampments, panhandling, etc. that many people feel are directly related to those stores, perhaps the nearby neighborhoods will celebrate. Still, one has to feel badly for the many employees whose jobs are disappearing and for the many customers who have come to rely on those stores.
Meanwhile, the real story is about what happens next. Does the County have a plan? HaHaHa! Yes, that was said in jest. As has been explained before, the County has no vision for our community at the center of a metropolitan region of 2.1 million people -- no sense of what the place should become, no feel for how to achieve a sustainable community. Instead, the County waits around until a developer hatches a scheme for the developer's short-term benefit, whether the community wants it or not. Approving that scheme lets the County claim it did something (when it really didn't) and tell us all once again that "something is better than nothing". That's how Country Club Centre devolved: Sam's Club was permitted without dialogue with the community and the Walmart that replaced Montgomery Wards hasn't exactly brought an economic renaissance to the area. Yet since those stores attract people with low incomes, it sort of made sense to put low-income apartments there, didn't it? Until the stores go away, that is.
Will Country Club Centre morph into something better or worse? Or will it wind up in a kind of "traditional-retail-is-dying, let's try this" vortex like Country Club Plaza? Will the property just slide downhill like the Savings Center on Watt or Mike's Market on El Camino? Should we be comforted by the prospective silver lining of less Sam's Club and Walmart trucks on busy Watt Avenue? Oh, gosh, maybe the County will think of something and tell us all later what a brilliant idea it was. They are the ones who think pornography products are "clothing", so they must know what they are doing, right? Just don't expect any out-of-the-box thinking, because innovations and growth explosions elsewhere will just never, ever, work here. If the Legislature and the Governor decide that new cities are OK again, our community can do what cities like Citrus Heights have done -- which is make the community a place where people want to live, work, have businesses, raise kids, and retire. But that's going to take some hard work, all uphill. In the meantime, we get to depend on the kindness of out-of-state corporations like Walmart, out-of-area landlords, and the wisdom of our dear County leaders.