ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After the Walmart near Central and San Mateo closed last month, residents have been feeling the absence of not having the grocery store. Now people in the area are asking the city to step in and provide solutions.
“It takes me about four times longer…I might have to make two trips instead of one trip a week,” says Jimmy Armijo, International District resident.
82-year-old Jimmy Armijo says he used to take the bus to do his shopping at the Walmart near Central. After it closed its doors, he now has to go to stores further away, making his trip four times longer. In December, Walmart had said there would be company-wide closures due to retail theft.
They said the San Mateo location was closing due to the store “underperforming.” The Health
Equity Council is among community groups that have started a petition to put pressure on the city to bring new grocers to the area. They say people in the International District lost a resource that provided affordable pharmaceuticals, vision care, clothing, and food.
“What we wanna do is ask the city to help encourage those services back into the community as quickly as possible, and also to make sure that the building doesn’t become a nuisance,” says Enrique Cardiel, Executive Director of the Health Equity Council.
Councilor Pat Davis says the city is providing economic development money for local grocers to bring their business to southeast Albuquerque. When asked if crime would deter smaller businesses from moving into the area, Councilor Davis says local stores were there before.
“They left because Walmart put them out of business; and then when Walmart couldn’t extract any more money out of that neighborhood, they packed up and left too,” says Pat Davis, Albuquerque City Councilor, District Six.
Davis says the city will help subsidize rent and even lower property taxes for property owners or retailers bringing in needed services, including food and pharmaceuticals. He says he hopes the perks will help incentivize businesses to open shop.
“If we wanna solve this problem, we’re not going to solve the grocery store desert by waiting on Walmart. That’s going to be years before that process is ready to move forward, but people are hungry and they don’t need to travel all over right now,” says Davis.
Earlier this month, state lawmakers secured a collective $2 million in capital outlay funding that could go toward a future acquisition or project on the site.