Weighing the Impact of Walmart: As One Store Opens, Another Closure Sparks Concern

As employees hurried to put the finishing touches on the new Walmart Super Center in Leesburg’s Compass Creek development, not everyone is celebrating the closure of the Edwards Ferry Road store.

The arrival of the Compass Creek store, scheduled to open this week, meant that the Edwards Ferry Road store would close. While that store’s closure may not have as big of an impact on its employees—all are transferring to the new store, in addition to 100 new associates, Walmart says—it is the community immediately surrounding the old store who many are concerned will be negatively impacted.

The Edwards Ferry Road store, opened in 1993, is in the Shenandoah Square shopping center, adjacent to Loudoun County’s Shenandoah building, where its health and human services programs are located, and within walking distance to many of Leesburg’s lower-income neighborhoods. Many residents in the area rely on their own two feet, rather than a car, to get around, and on the Walmart to do their shopping. The county government has added a new bus stop to bring shoppers and employees to the new store on the outskirts of town, but some question if that approach goes far enough.

One of the most vocal critics in recent weeks has been Leesburg Councilman Ron Campbell, who has said he would not attend Wednesday’s scheduled ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new store. Campbell said he believes the town could have done more to keep the Edwards Ferry store open.

“The town doesn’t have a right to decide whether a business should stay here or go there. But it does have a position to take about how those businesses really help our community,” Campbell said.

He pointed to how many nearby residents rely on the store location for an affordable option for groceries, medication and more. Campbell also took issue with how the town has negotiated—or not—with Loudoun County on its Joint Land Management Area, where the new Walmart will be located. The town and county are in the preliminary stages of considering a boundary line adjustment that would bring the Compass Creek development into town limits.

“Our responsibility for leadership is to protect the interests of our town. And we have no solution—the town has no solutions. The county’s solution is one unreliable bus route,” he said.

Others are taking a more wait-and-see approach, including Jennifer Montgomery, executive director of Loudoun Hunger Relief, the county’s main food pantry.

“We will have to see what kind of impact [the Edwards Ferry store closure] has to be able to respond accordingly,” she said. “We’re working together to make sure people can access the services on the other side of town.”

Montgomery lauded the county government and nonprofits’ outreach efforts to let the residents know about the store closure and how to access the new store. In addition to creating the new bus route, the county government also put together an online directory of other grocers within a one-mile radius of the Edwards Ferry store.

Speculation has already begun on what will become the new anchor of the Shenandoah Square development, one that many see as having great redevelopment potential. Walmart, which owns the 96,000-square-foot building, another 20,000 square feet of retail space connected to it and the center’s parking lot, has remained mum on its plans for the space, declining to comment on who it is looking to fill the storefront.

While not offering comment about Walmart specifically, Leesburg Economic Development Director Russell Seymour said anytime the town loses a business, the goal is to see it replaced with one that provides similar services.

“If we can’t keep them in the town, what we try to do is fill that space so the town is not in a net loss. We try to replace it with something that can have that same value to those local residents when we can,” he said.

But Seymour was quick to emphasize, “We don’t have the ability to dictate what goes in there.”

Mayor Kelly Burk said she has personally had conversations with two different developers who are very interested in the property and has helped facilitate conversations between those developers and Walmart. She said she plans to attend the new store’s ribbon-cutting ceremony to continue to help make those connections.

“We haven’t been sitting on our hands,” she said of the town’s approach. “As a town, we don’t want [the Edwards Ferry building] to be vacant; we want it to be something. It might be something different than what is there now, it might be a different version, but it’s something we’re very concerned about and we’re trying to work with Walmart and the development community.”

But Burk acknowledged the property’s future is out of the town government’s hands.

“In the end it’s the decision of Walmart and the development community,” she said.

krodriguez@loudounnow.com

4 thoughts on “Weighing the Impact of Walmart: As One Store Opens, Another Closure Sparks Concern

  • 2019-05-30 at 1:35 pm
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    Dear Leesburg Town Council. If you want better cooperation with the County, then stop threatening to secede every year and take tax paying assets.

  • 2019-06-01 at 10:07 pm
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    I remember when Walmart was first built in 1993. Locals and the media lamented the detrimental impact it was going to have on mom and pop stores in Leesburg. Twenty six years later they are now lamenting the loss of Walmart from one quadrant of Leesburg to another. I also seem to remember that many of the same apartments proceeded Walmart in the Edwards Ferry Rd area. Where did the residents in that area shop before Walmart was built? Was it less a hardship back in the late 1980’s than it is now? I’m sure the move will be a hardship for some people, but given time people always seem to adapt to change.

  • 2019-06-02 at 7:53 am
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    Um, does anyone care that Campbell didn’t show up to the opening? I know I don’t. What I do know is that he’ll be shopping there soon enough!
    As for the new one replacing the old one at a new location? It’s about time. The old one sucked, and it didn’t seem to hurt Sterling when their new one was built outside of town. Quitchobitchin and be thankful you don’t need to take a shower everytime you come home from shopping at the old, grungy store!

  • 2019-06-02 at 8:48 pm
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    The new super-Walmart is in the County, not the town, so I hope they give Supervisor Higgins and Chair Randall the lead in cutting the ribbon, not Kelly Burk. And it was the Board of Supervisors in 2013 that approved the zoning. I served on the Board at the time. Since Peterson Cos. told us they had not decided on a tenant, though there were rumors of a Sams Club or Super Walmart, neither the council nor board had any inkling the Walmart on Edwards Ferry would close So, the issues before the Council involved utilities, traffic and land use. Mr. Higgins secured proffers from Peterson to help with improvements at Battlefield and Evergreen, but the ingress and egress off Battlefield is what it is. There’s not much more that can be done. Around 2016, when construction was ongoing, when we learned the older Walmart would close and there were discussions of the County adding a bus route there. Nonsense. FIrst, the distance is too long and would not capture enough passengers. Second, folks who are transit and pedestrian dependent can take the town-funded Safe-T Ride across the Bypass to Target or Costco, and I imagine many have done that as the Walmart food selection at Edwards Ferry was limited. Campbell again doesnt know history nor bothers to read up on facts before he opens his mouth and tries to grandstand as the “representative of the little guy.” This comment in particular is ludicrous ” it does have a position to take about how those businesses really help our community,” No, the local government approves or rejects rezonings and can only negotiate proffers to “help the community.” Again, neither Council nor the Supervisors had any inkling the old Walmart would close at the time of the 2013 rezoning.

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