What to do with the Walmart in ABQ’s International District?
Suggestions like mutual aid services, a community garden or another retail space depend on Walmart selling the property
The Walmart in Albuquerque’s International District is set to close on March 10. (Photo by Shaun Griswold / Source NM)
The Walmart in Albuquerque’s International District is set to close on March 10 and what happens next is up in the air, because the company still owns the property.
The lot is zoned for mixed use, meaning several different options could be built in its place. In order for anything new to go in the space, such as housing, a park, or even another retail space, Walmart must choose to sell the property.
Currently, the company is having conversations with the City of Albuquerque about “the best path forward,” according to Lauren Willis, the Global Communications Director of Western U.S Walmarts.
The Walmart is located in the International District off San Mateo Blvd, just south of Central Avenue. It’s next to a high school and near a major public transportation hub, which makes the location easily accessible for those who do not have a car.
People that live in the neighborhood began conversations last week about what they would like to see happen with this location. One, everyone wants something to replace the store and make sure the area is not vacated for too long. An idea brought up by many at the meeting was to create a Mutual Aid hub.
Mutual Aid programs have long existed in the district. Programs like, ABQ Mutual aid, and local gardens, are services organized by the community, and allow people to connect with resources, and get things like food, or household products, according to Bernadette Hardy (Díne), and Guillermina Osoria, two community organizers with International District Healthy Communities Coalition..
“Because that’s the way that we’re going to be able to really get to the root cause of the problem. We can be in front of people, (and ask) do you have enough money to pay your rent? Or pay your medicine? Do you have enough money to buy your food, or pay the electricity or the water,” Osoria said.
Enrique Cardiel, a community organizer who brought people together for this meeting, thinks the Walmart closure will create energy in the community to organize around a solution to address problems created by Walmart leaving the neighborhood, such as access to basic necessities like food and medicine.
“I think this creates some urgency to it. We’ve talked about community grocery stores in the past, but now, there’s a pressure to figure it out,” Cardiel said.“And so I think, while it’s a crisis, it also creates an opportunity, an energy to do stuff. And so, hopefully we step up as a community to figure it out.”
The inspiration for creating a potential mutual aid organizing space is the large parking lot that surrounds the building. This could provide ample room to arrange food, supplies and facilitate care on a larger scale, community members discussed at the meeting.
Many are happy to see Walmart go. However, the short notice will leave many in the area without an accessible place to get groceries, toiletries and home products, along with also losing a pharmacy and banking location. Hardy said this creates an even greater of a need for mutual aid efforts right now.
“We know we have the highest rates of chronic disease, people with disabilities, people who use the bus, and we depend on Walmart a lot. But I also don’t want to support Walmart. We need to be self-sufficient,” Hardy said.
When Walmart opened its store in the International District it put a lot of local shops in the area out of business. Cardiel talked about watching many of those businesses close.
“We’ve seen over the last couple of decades, smaller businesses just not be able to keep up. We had a lot of black owned businesses, those are gone. There’s a lot of Mexican and Asian businesses and a lot of those, just struggled or some of them closed,” Cardiel said. “A lot of infrastructure is just not there.”
Cardiel hopes that the city encourages a new grocery store to open up in the area, and also supports more cooperative efforts like getting farmers together to sell their goods.
Cardiel said they hope that if a new grocery store comes into the area they reach out to the community beforehand, something Walmart did not do.
“We need a supermarket. And I see figuring how to encourage a supermarket to be here is part of the puzzle,” Cardiel said.
The Walmart closure was a celebratory moment for Osoria who said the corporation has a legacy of harming communities of color, and forces people to be dependent on the store. This moment leaves a welcome opportunity for something new in the International District, Osoria said.
“They (Walmarts) come in, make all the money, and then when they made enough, or when they feel that they want to get up and leave,” Osoria said. “I’m seeing the closure of Walmart as a positive thing for the future.”
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