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Walmart Closings In Wichita Add To Local Food Deserts

Nadya Faulx
KMUW/File photo

Walmart has announced they’re closing three Neighborhood Market grocery stores in Wichita. Come February, the Central and West, Harry and Web, and 13th and Oliver locations will all be shuttered.

The move is part of a larger decision to close 269 locations globally.

In a statement, the company said it’s moving away from smaller models and will focus more on larger Walmart Supercenters.

Becky Tuttle, project manager for the Health & Wellness Coalition of Wichita, thinks the closings could further a problem known as food deserts—low-income neighborhoods that are at least a mile away from a full-service grocery store.

She says people living in food deserts often rely on Wichita Transit, walking or biking to get around town, and that every time an affordable grocery store closes, it adds another 1 to 2 miles to the commute.

“I think [closing these Walmart locations] is going to be a real hardship for some people in our community and hopefully we can work together to see what options we can bring so everyone has access to healthy foods,” Tuttle said.

The closing of area Walmart grocery stores comes about six months after Dillon’s announced the closing of two of its smaller locations—one at 13th and Woodlawn and one at Harry and Broadway.

According to the Health & Wellness Coalition of Wichita, the city has 44 square miles of food deserts.

When the 13th and Oliver Walmart closes on Jan. 28, it will add roughly six additional square miles to that total.

Ken Mar TIF District 

The 13th and Oliver Walmart Neighborhood Market sits within Wichita’s Ken Mar Redevelopment District, which is a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district through 2029.

As a way to entice private developers to invest in blighted areas, Tax Increment Financing provides bonds for redevelopment that are then paid back with future increases in tax revenue. This means that until 2029, all excess sales tax revenue created by the redevelopment of 13th and Oliver is supposed to be paying the city back.

According to the City of Wichita, the city isn’t in danger of losing funds due to the closing of the Walmart Neighborhood Market.

“The City of Wichita has placed several protections in place for this district to ensure cash flow exists to pay the debt," the city announced in a statement. "The developer has provided a guarantee to the City to pay any shortfall of tax revenue. In years that the TIF district does not generate tax revenue sufficient to pay the debt service for the project, the developer is required to pay the shortfall amount to the City."

According to the city, the investment of local developers, as well as Walmart, has increased the property value within the Ken Mar district from $1,981,804 to $5,063,172.

Credit: Aileen LeBlanc

Follow Sean Sandefur on Twitter @SeanSandefur

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