If you build it

walmartFrisco, Texas, the setting of Tinsel,  is going to get a new Wal-Mart, but not without some debate angst. The store will be a 24-hour, 185,000-square-foot “supercenter” with a big parking lot. The developer apparently worked overtime to make it purdy enough to quell some complaints, but not all.

It’s rare for people in Frisco to chafe at big-boxes or other shopping-oriented development; one visit there and it’s clear that Frisco never met a box store it didn’t like. It’s no Wasilla, though — Frisco has all sorts of infrastructure requirements, master plans, and aesthetic design codes. It fully accepts its destiny as a homogeneous shopping town (which is great for sales tax receipts) and requires its box stores to be neat, orderly and by the book.

As one of the commentors in the DMN article notes, there are 20 or so Wal-Marts within 15 miles of where this one will be. One is on Frisco’s west side, 7 miles from the site of the proposed store; another one is 4 miles south of the site, but, it’s also just a  few yards south of Highway 121, and I’m pretty sure that puts it in Plano, which means none of the sales taxes get to Frisco. A lot of civic-minded Friscans (“Friscoites?” “Friskies?” I never settled on a nickname) try very hard to keep their spending north of 121.

Four miles, seven miles — it may not sound far, but in the retailscape of Collin County, those are both epic and symbolic distances. If you were to drive up Preston Road from Dallas all the way to the northern end of Frisco (a journey of 25 miles or so) you would see an endless cornucopia of chain stores, big boxes, strip centers, restaurants, etc., on a repeat loop. Convenience is king. Not so long ago, Preston Road was the Shawnee Trail, where millions of cattle were herded north by 19th-century cowboys. Now it’s a consumer’s paradise — or paradise lost, depending on your worldview (which wouldn’t be popular there; there’s not a lot Joni Mitchell singing “don’t know what you got til it’s gone” about putting up parking lots, if you catch my drift).

People at the meeting pointed out that it’s a miracle that Wal-Mart is ready to build yet again, since everything else in the current economy (besides Wal-Mart) has paused or stalled. Some Friscans at the meeting talked about their worries of traffic jams and cars cutting through the parking lot. Still others think a 24-hour Wal-Mart draws the wrong kind of crowd (some feel Wal-Mart has a special lure for undocumented immigrants). There’s another unspoken American cultural divide — some people are Target people, some are Wal-Mart people.

safewayI also find it interesting that some Friscans simply feel like enough is enough. That’s new. As an occasional interlocutor in Frisco, I stand in awe of its ability to just keep adding stuff. In the three years it took developers to build a Safeway/retail/condo development in my downtown Washington neighborhood, Frisco built a half-dozen major strip malls.

After hearing loads of debate from citizens, the planning commission voted 3-3 Tuesday. It sounds like it was pretty heated.

One of the members who voted “no” is Jeff Trykoski, who is one of the main characters in Tinsel. Jeff is a good Wal-Mart shopper — a chapter in my book follows him as he rises way before dawn on Dec. 26 to buy up surplus Christmas lights at Wal-Mart.

But Jeff, ever objective, just didn’t believe that Wal-Mart’s developers’ plans met some requirements in the city’s overall zoning ordinance.

The comission chairman broke the tie and Wal-Mart got the go-ahead.


  1. brendan doherty on July 17, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Frakers? Frikkens? what about the obvious, Frieks?

  2. Jeff Kirk on July 25, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Not sure if you’ve kept up with similar goings-on in Austin, but Wal-Mart tried to pull the same thing here in Austin, on the site of the obsolete Northcross Mall, but with an even bigger location: 225,000 sq ft! Naturally, a shitstorm ensued, and after a group of 3,000 protesters locked arms around the entirety of the space, Wal-Mart dumped its two-story, 24-hour store in favor of a “small” 100,000 sq ft SuperCenter.

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