Residents of a North Miami neighborhood voiced their frustrations and opinions over the proposed development of a Walmart Neighborhood Market at a community meeting Monday night.
The meeting at the Griffing Center, 12220 Griffing Blvd., was filled with residents from the Griffing Park Estates neighborhood who mostly opposed the project and said it will be harmful to the community.
The developer, Retrosource, is proposing a Walmart Neighborhood Market in a grassy field just south of Northeast 135th Street at the intersection of Memorial Highway. The plan calls for the main store and parking lot along with a gas station and room for a restaurant or another store.
Most of the land is zoned for commercial use and the developer hopes to have the residential area zoned for its use as well. Residents said they believe their property values will decline and crime will increase if the store is built there.
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Beyond those concerns, others like Laura Hill said that having the store there will undo a lot of community-building work that she and her neighbors have done in the past few years.
“Are we going to take a neighborhood that is doing well, where people are owning their houses and fixing them up, and that’s where we’re going to put a major retail center?” Hill said.
Chynna Luschen, another resident, expressed concern about how traffic would be mitigated and said the neighborhood is filled with reckless drivers who have careened into yards and caused accidents.
“Somebody who lives down the street from me had their home crashed into so many times they lost their homeowners insurance,” Luschen said.
The engineer for the project, Kinan Husainy, said they will conduct traffic studies and comply with Miami-Dade County’s requirements.
Residents also expressed concern over small business being pushed out by Walmart and asked why other retailers or stores, like Trader Joe’s, weren’t considered for the site. They also proposed non-commercial uses for the site.
“The ideal plan for me would be a community garden or maybe seeing the city buy it for something,” Hill said. “But if it’s going to be corporate, maybe it can be some cool restaurants or maybe something more distinctly North Miami.”
Lee Babitt, who attended the meeting representing Retrosource, said that development will likely come to the site in one form or another and he hopes to work with residents and hear their ideas.
“We’re here to help, to come up with something that you’ll be happy with,” Babitt said at the meeting. “We’re not here to create something that’s not coming anyway.”
The Neighborhood Market stores are about 40,000 square feet on average, making them about a quarter the size of Walmart supercenters. The stores focus on selling produce, grocery and pharmaceuticals, not other Walmart goods like clothing and toys. The developers said they expect the project to create 80 to 100 jobs.
Stores of this size are becoming more popular in South Florida. A new Neighborhood Market store is scheduled to open soon in Miami Gardens.
Opposition to the development of Walmart stores is not uncommon in South Florida as plans for the retailer to move into Midtown Miami and on a portion of endangered forest land in South Miami-Dade have been met with opposition and legal challenges.
North Miami Mayor Smith Joseph and Councilman Scott Galvin attended the occasionally tense and confrontational meeting and Galvin said he hopes the developer will consider modifying the plan.
“I can see the site being developed but maybe if it’s something with lesser impact or a better design,” Galvin said.
Residents have already discussed plans for a petition and plan to show up in large number when the item is discussed at the city’s upcoming planning Commission meeting. The meeting will be held 7 p.m. Jan. 6 at North Miami City Hall, 776 NE 125th St.