Walmart stirs controversy in Seattle neighborhood

Just east of Seattle, the city of Bellevue has nearly 100 parks and hundreds of restaurants for residents and visitors to explore. Anyone looking for real estate in Seattle may find a home just over Lake Washington to be perfect in this area known for its beautiful scenery and culture.

According to results of Brookings Institution's MetroMonitor, the first quarter economic results showed Seattle-Bellevue-Tacoma ranked 28th in performance standards. Employment rates in the area have increased in most sectors such as education, manufacturing, construction and hospitality. Other sectors like government and finance showed a drop, but not significantly. The most impacted industry was mining, which dropped 8.7 percent.

Employment will rise again soon, despite some angry residents. The recent planned addition of two Walmarts in the neighborhood have some community members concerned of the impact on local businesses. City officials are urging residents to look on the bright side, as the big box store will occupy a darkened store front that has gone unused for quite some time at Kelsey Creek Center.

Despite a letter to The Seattle Times from Steven Restivo, senior director of community affairs at Walmart stating there is no controversy over the new store, several protests have occurred outside of construction areas.

"The point is not to somehow stop the two Bellevue stores from opening," Tom Geiger, a spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which held an anti-Walmart rally last month in downtown Bellevue said. "The point is to raise concerns about how Walmart operates and spread that concern to other communities, because Walmart is coming. And they're going to come hard."

The Walmart location in Kelsey Creek is also making an effort to support local businesses, despite their past of closing stores down. The store’s market will have local goods like wines from Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville and gluten-free breads from Zen Bakery.

Even with the chain’s support of local businesses, residents and small business owners worry the unionized corporation will cause a drop in minimum wages and benefits. In addition, the low prices of Walmart may cause mom and pop shops to close.

Other chains like Little Caesars and Verizon Wireless bought space in the building shortly after the announcement of the new Walmart.