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Big box community decay effect

By John Bonitz
Posted Tuesday, September 26, 2006

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Silk Hope, NC - Just like tooth decay, when these big box stores roll into our community in an unplanned fashion, in a few years, they leave behind a gaping hole.

Here in Cackalacky, Wal-Mart currently has 673,000 sq feet of vacant buildings.

Here's what the conservative WALL STREET JOURNAL had to say about this gaping-hole effect:

The Cincinnati Business Courier reported on postitives and negatives of the 20 new Wal-Mart Supercenters proposed in the Cincinnati region. The article cites a study concluding that only office buildings, business parks, and specialty retail centers pay for themselves. The study showed big-box retail costs $1,023 per thousand square feet, $468 more than it generates in tax revenue.

Let me be clear: I do not oppose big-box stores categorically. But if they propose to build here, we should ask them to recognize and address the harmful impacts. They could post a bond for demolition of their empty building, if their realtors leave it vacant for too long.

Or maybe we should pass an ordinance prohibiting retail construction so huge that no other business can possibly fill it?

Here are a precious few success stories about what other communities are doing to re-use old big-box stores:

My point is this: These big-box stores represent a scale so large that they pose a new challenge to communities. IF they do close, or fold, or build a newer & bigger store down the road, their old empty buildings are too big for most other businesses. And Wal-Mart has a practice of forbidding certain businesses from using their vacant stores.

I believe Chatham County ought to think about this, plan for the worst, and work towards the best.

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