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Baltimore Takes Vote On 'Smaller' Wal-Mart

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This car dealership would give way to a shopping complex that includes the first Wal-Mart within Baltimore City limits, as well as a Lowe's and residential apartments.
Cathy Duchamp
This car dealership would give way to a shopping complex that includes the first Wal-Mart within Baltimore City limits, as well as a Lowe's and residential apartments.

The Baltimore City Council is expected to give final approval to a plan to build a Wal-Mart Northwest of downtown tonight. It's part of the retail giant's strategy to build smaller stores in urban markets.

Steve Isberg, who teaches corporate finance at the University of Baltimore, tells the story of Wal-Mart through spreadsheets and bar graphs: "And what it tells you is that they're starting to reach capacity."

Isberg says Wal-Mart has saturated the suburbs, at least in the U.S. So, he says, the world's largest retailer has set its sights on American cities.

"...they're filling the gaps, and Baltimore is one of those places," Isberg says. "They're also looking at Chicago and New York."

The Baltimore Wal-Mart would not be a supercenter. Plans call for a so-called "small-mart," that would sit on top of a slimmed-down Lowe's and next to other retail shops and residential apartments.

Critics are concerned about low wages and traffic. But Isberg says the deal is too good for the city to pass up.

"That property will now generate property taxes...[and] sales taxes...There will be at least 250 permanent jobs created," he says.

Even so, labor activists will hold a rally outside city hall this afternoon to demand wage concessions, before the city council takes its final vote on the project.

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