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Walkability is great, but having a Walmart nearby is better

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis October 11, 2011 08:55 AM

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Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino has been an unflagging cheerleader for urban life, overseeing an explosion in new condo development downtown.

But his decision to effectively bar Walmart from setting foot in Boston - and in particular Roxbury - raises one of the major drawbacks of urban living.

Yes, if you trade in your suburban home for a condo or house in Boston, you might just be able to ditch your car as well.

And for someone who hates cars as much as I do, that's an attraction.

But carless or not, you are then stuck with a limited array of shopping options, of which the lack of a Walmart is just the tip of the iceberg. Major grocery stores are hard to find, and, with a captive audience, the prices are invariably higher at the few that have managed to squeeze their way into the city.

And it's not just Boston neighborhoods like Roxbury or South Boston that are suffering a dearth of full-scale grocery stores. Growing residential enclaves near North Station and the old West End have been lobbying for years for a supermarket on planned Bulfinch Triangle development sites.

I didn't move to Natick because of the Walmart over on Route 9, but that, along with the choice of a couple different grocery stores and other retailers, is a major plus.

It wasn't always this way. In my twenties, I rented an apartment near a red line station in Quincy and got around mostly by public transportation.

Sure, my shopping options were narrower, but I only had to worry about feeding myself.
But it's a different world now - I'm married with three children seven and under. And where I shop - and more importantly how much I spend - matters a lot more now that I am buying truckloads of milk, bread and cereal each week.

Now mind you, I still spend money at the corner store, I just don't have to do all my shopping there, and pay double or triple what I would a couple miles down the street at Stop & Shop.

Written like a true suburbanite, I guess. But when you are deciding where to live, it might be worth paying closer attention to where the nearest supermarket is than to your neighborhood's walkability score.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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