1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: "Robert G. Paterson" <rgfp@mail.utexas.edu>
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 1999 11:07:54 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: Re: Does "big box" retail fit in a small town?

The assumption that large box retail can not create a community asset is
false. Here in Austin, a local grocery chain took a gamble with the
state as the land lord, the Grocery Chain with help from the City built
a water feature, created a playscape, and a patio where music is played
almost nightly under large Oak trees.  Children events are planned on
weekends, a cafeteria produces excellent food with a cooking school for
the community above it. In its first week of operation, it was the
highest grossing grocery store in the U.S.  It remains incredibly
successful with kids night dinners and live music weekly.  Retailers
could learn from that experience--stores do not need to be lifeless,
stupid buildings in a sea of pavement. People will use parking garages
if sited appropriately, and they do appreciate amenity features that
make buildings more aesthetically pleasing, and that make life easier
and more enjoyable (like Shade trees, benches and things for the kids
and parents to do -- other than wish they were home).

Point being. If the market will only carrying that use, you CAN require
design guidelines that make it work. If government owns the land,
consider use of a land lease to require a number of amenities and design
features to convert what is usually a nasty project into a community
asset (you get taxes on improvement value and right to consider other
options later when the land lease expires).  The National Trust for
Historic Places has several manuals on appropriate design for large box
retail (including sample ordinance language) and ways to reduce/avoid
the mega store effects.  With 11 bidders, someone will find a way to
make the numbers work and create a store with community amenity (Of
course if there is some other viable use that creates more jobs and
overall better benefits for the community at large, then that should be
explored first).

My 2 cents..........


Bob Paterson
University of Texas at Austin

cpeo@cpeo.org wrote:
> Eureka, CA is located 300 miles north of San Francisco.  This AP article
> brings of up interesting issues for this small town.
> a) the town's economy is traditionally dependent on natural resources
> b) the property is one of the last redvelopable waterfront areas
> c) All 11 bids on the property were from retailers
> d) Wal-Mart is the first company with the "... wherewithal to do something"
> Tony C.
> For the complete article go to:
> http://biz.yahoo.com/apf/990823/wal_mart_w_1.html
> Monday August 23, 2:49 am Eastern Time
> "Calif. Residents To Vote on Wal-Mart"
> (excerpts)
> Associated Press Writer
> EUREKA, Calif. (AP) -- "The landscape doesn't look like a bellwether for a
> town's future -- 32 scruffy, polluted acres surrounded by industrial
> buildings, abandoned warehouses and
> some old, rusty railroad tracks."
> Wal-Mart officials want to build a mega-store on the site. They are asking
> the 28,000 residents "... to decide the issue with the future in mind."
> "The land in question has sat idle since Union Pacific Railroad shut down
> its engine turnaround area two decades ago. Residents rarely visit the
> area, which serves as a camping spot for the homeless."
> Opponents of Wal-Mart want the city to build a deep-water, commercial port
> and feel the company has "bullied" its way onto the ballot.
> "If nothing else, the fight has sparked debate in a city whose economy --
> built on the timber and fishing industries -- has stagnated in recent
> years. Nearly two dozen stores are vacant at the city's Bayshore Mall and
> boarded up storefronts take up several blocks downtown."
> Complete article
> http://biz.yahoo.com/apf/990823/wal_mart_w_1.html

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