If Walmart Urbanizes Its Headquarters, What’s Next for Its Stores?

The Washington Post reports that Walmart, the retail behemoth whose name is synonymous with big-box sprawl, is looking to attract young people to work at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. To make that happen, the company is investing in amenities to make its hometown — population 40,000 — more urban.

Sam Walton’s first store, in downtown Bentonville, where the company hopes to draw young employees. Photo: brad_hot/Flickr via Washington Post
Sam Walton’s first store, in downtown Bentonville, Arkansas, where the company hopes to draw young employees. Photo: brad_holt/Flickr via Washington Post

To remain competitive, the Post says, Walmart must draw professionals “who might not have a car” away from “large cities that have lots more to offer.”

Robert Steuteville at Better! Cities & Towns believes new development in the Bentonville area will have repercussions across the U.S.:

In the middle of the 20th century, northwest Arkansas consisted of a few sleepy towns on a railroad line. Now it has half a million residents in disconnected subdivisions.

The area must urbanize to move forward economically, and the implications of that necessity will turn suburbs on their heads. The needs of Bentonville and Walmart will reverberate coast to coast.

Walmart, the Walton Foundation, and local leaders are investing heavily in art museums and other cultural attractions, bicycle trails, and mixed-use infill development that brings restaurants and brew pubs.

Nearby Rogers, Springdale, and Fayetteville (home of the University of Arkansas) are moving in the same direction. Urban amenities have gained status in the land of Walmart — arguably the largest, most suburban-oriented enterprise in the world.

“In order for us to compete for the type of talent it’s going to take to allow these companies to remain competitive in the global economy, we have to be a place where people want to live, where they can spend their free time doing things they enjoy,” one Bentonville official told the Post.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Family Friendly Cities says Seattle’s proposed residential zoning update won’t lead families with kids to flee the city.

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