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In Defense of a Walmart in Midtown

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As The Dissident, J.J. Colagrande turns his critical eye on Miami culture. This week: Just build the damn Walmart in midtown already.

Ever see the SNL skit "Really?" with Seth Myers and Amy Poehler? That's how this "No Walmart in Midtown" thing feels. I mean, really -- we're still talking about this?

Let's be clear: Walmart sucks. I'm no fan of the low-wage-paying corporate monster. I don't heart Huckabee. But this crusade against one Walmart in a thriving part of town -- really? The store won't ruin the neighborhood, and we have bigger fish to fry.

Would a Trader Joe's be better? Sure. But midtown is already home to plenty of big-brand stores: Target, Ross, Marshalls, PetSmart, Sports Authority, Loehmann's, HomeGoods, Mattress Giant, and Party City. Are you arguing that adding one more will kill the neighborhood? Really?

Where is this irrational fear coming from? Mainly from those with a stake in midtown's real estate, who worry that the neighborhoods they are gentrifying (Wynwood and midtown) will suddenly lose their value if a megastore such as Walmart is built. Are you really so invested in the profits of real estate developers? Really?

If you subtract the average income from people who live in its high-rise condos, the rest of the area Walmart would serve -- places such as Allapattah and Overtown -- is poor. The average annual income per family is less than $20,000 -- that's barely $300 per week, after taxes, per family, not per person. These are families, many with kids, carving out a living that hovers around the federal poverty line. They probably could use a Walmart in the area, because they are definitely not hanging out at Panther Coffee sipping six-dollar iced lattes.

And yes, Walmart has a history of offensive business and employment practices. But it won't be any worse in midtown than it is in Hialeah or Doral or North Miami Beach or any of the many other locations in the Miami area. Where was the outrage when those stores opened?

Look. If the city is bending its development rules for Walmart, that's wrong. But as far as yelling "The sky is falling" because some store is moving into an area that already has a crapload of stores? Move on -- we have bigger issues to deal with, like saving libraries and fire stations and funding animal shelters. Listen to the people rallying loudest. If they earn a living off real estate, consider their real intentions. Really.

J.J. Colagrande is the author of the novels Headz and Decò. Follow him on Twitter.

Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.

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