By Maynard Eaton
Vangie Watkins has done an about-face. For 12 years, Watkins, a South Fulton activist, fiercely fought against the construction of a new Wal-Mart at Cascade Road and I-285. This week, however, with shovel in hand, she joined her opposition in the groundbreaking ceremony for a 147,000 square foot Supercenter that is expected to bring 300 much needed jobs and become an economic engine for the area, and sheepishly conceded defeat.
"The State Supreme Court said give Wal-Mart whatever they want," Watkins said ruefully. "You take it as far as you can and when you have put up the good fight, done your homework, presented your case and the courts make a decision, what else can you do?"
The Supercenter is expected to open in mid-summer 2013 and begin peddling an array of locally grown produce, clothing, pharmacy services and electronics among other things in this upscale African American community. One million dollars has already been earmarked for infrastructure improvements at the site, to maintain flow of traffic and access.
Karen Brewer-Edwards, Wal-Mart's North Georgia Regional General Manager, says the new Wal-Mart will usher in "a new era of business growth," for this coveted Cascade market that would "spruce up the economic forecast" for the area.
"We want to assure you that you can expect the best from us in services and in quality and price," she said.
Despite the past disputes, the Wal-Mart development amounts to good news opined Fulton County Commission Chairman, John Eaves.
"This has been a long journey," admitted Eaves, a former president of the Cascade Homeowners Association. "It is important for us to acknowledge that there were people in this community that were concerned. I think that [Wal-Mart], as a corporate entity, heard many of those concerns and there have been some modifications that have been made. The most important thing is that they are adding to the commercial and economic vitality of this area and Wal-Mart promises to be good stewards in this community."