When Walmart announced it would open 6 stores in DC, many wondered whether the stores would use urban or suburban layouts. With the plans for all the stores finally available, now we know.
3 of the 6 stores will be unquestionably urban. 1 will be a hybrid with some urban characteristics. 2 will be almost completely suburban.
Gonzaga: The closest store to downtown is suitably the most urban. With apartments above and smaller-format retailers lining the street, Walmart’s H Street location is a model of what urban big boxes should be.
Fort Totten: Almost as good as the Gonzaga design, this store is inferior only because it’s in a much more isolated location, and because the building materials appear to be somewhat cheaper. But still, the design is unquestionably strong.
Georgia Avenue: Although this design lacks the mixed-use amenities of the previous two, it’s still primarily urban, with greater emphasis on pedestrian access than vehicular. It greets the street and parking is provided underground. It’s a reasonable choice for a neighborhood that has not seen much investment in recent years.
Skyland Town Center: Resembling something one might expect to see in Gaithersburg, this location is a bit like a shopping mall; it’s internally walkable, but poorly connected to any surrounding neighborhoods.
Capitol Gateway: The farthest out proposal from downtown is clearly primarily suburban. It’s a strip mall. But it does take a few tentative steps towards walkability, with both street-facing and parking lot-facing entrances.
New York Avenue: The intersection of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road is probably DC’s most car-oriented corner. And so it was predictable that Walmart would choose it for a store, and propose a totally suburban design.
The store faces away from the biggest street and fronts onto a big open-air parking lot. The only indication that this location is in a city instead of an exurb is that the Walmart will be stacked on top of another big box store (probably a Home Depot).
Is DC a testing ground?
Each of the 6 stores has such unique characteristics that one wonders if Walmart is using DC as an experiment to see which types of layouts work in the urban environment. By comparing the sales at the more urban stores to the more suburban ones, Walmart will gain many valuable insights.Inevitably, Walmart will probably want to establish stores in other central cities around the country. The DC example will very likely influence the design of those future stores.All images in this post are from Walmart.