Last Saturday, Southeast 182nd Avenue and Powell Boulevard, an unremarkable intersection home to a defunct QFC, became the frontline in a battle pitting Gresham neighbors against the world's biggest retailer.
About 30 activists crowded the corner where Wal-Mart wants to build one of the 200,000-square-foot bargain biospheres known as Supercenters.
The big-box foes, called Gresham First, say one of Sam Walton's megastores would create a traffic and pollution disaster at the site, which borders Johnson Creek and the Springwater Corridor.
"We're trying to stay focused on the issues at this particular site," says campaign coordinator Javon Gilmore. "It's already a failing traffic intersection. A lot of people hate Wal-Mart, but we agreed early on that wasn't the way to go."
Gresham First's struggle against Wal-Mart is part of a statewide insurgency against the megacorp loved for its low prices and loathed for gutting local economies.
Last month, the Oregon Supreme Court refused to review a decision by Hood River to reject a Supercenter. Wal-Mart lost a similar battle in Hillsboro last year and faces concerted opposition to stores in Bend, Medford, Central Point, Beaverton and Oregon City. A recent meeting in Bend drew an overflow crowd of more than 200 Wal-Mart foes.
Gilmore says Gresham First is bracing for a tough fight. Hood River's anti-Wal-Mart group spent about $65,000 on attorneys and traffic and environmental analysts over two years. In Hillsboro, Wal-Mart set up its own "citizens group," and activist circles are awash in stories of the company packing public meetings with employees.
So far, Gilmore says, push-back in Gresham has yet to materialize. Meanwhile, the group is trying to get the word out. "We just don't need this store at this location," she says—adding that Wal-Mart, being Wal-Mart, already has two locations within about five miles of 182nd and Powell.
—Research by Josey Bartlett