Will Wal-Mart be urban, part 1: Brightwood

Ever since Wal-Mart announced earlier this week that they intend to build four stores in the District of Columbia, the question on the mind of urbanists has been: What will they look like?

Can Wal-Mart be fit into an urban context? Will we be getting walkable, transit oriented stores like the Columbia Heights Target, or the typical sprawly suburban model with acres of parking out front?

In all four cases the architecture is still in preliminary stages, making it impossible to obtain complete site plans. However, after speaking with the developers working on each of the projects, some information is nonetheless becoming available.

This post will be the first in a multi-part series discussing the urban design of each of the four stores. First up: the location in Brightwood, on the former site of Curtis Chevrolet, on upper Georgia Avenue.

Average suburban Wal-Marts often occupy sites with over 20 acres of land, but the Curtis Chevy property is barely four acres. Clearly, Wal-Mart won’t be able to build its usual model at this location.

Dick Knapp of Foulger-Pratt Company, the developer for the Brightwood site, confirms as much, saying “This is not your father’s Wal-Mart. They’re moving in to tighter spaces and they’re going vertical.”