Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Thinking Outside the (Big) Box

I admire Dr. Don Linder's protracted efforts to resurrect Greensboro's dead Carolina Circle Mall. But his plan to turn it into a huge sports complex a few years ago has mostly failed, and now his request to the city for $300,000 to help lure Wal-Mart to the site has been turned down, perhaps because of the light shined on the deal by local bloggers (including blogging council members).

Not that I'm a Wal-Mart hater (though I don't enjoy shopping there), but I have to wonder: how much does Greensboro really need just another big-box retail outlet? We already have a Wal-Mart two Wal-Marts, a Super K-Mart, a Sam's Club, a Costco, two Lowe's, and two Home Depots. The Toys-R-Us and Montgomery Ward stores that were located at Carolina Circle eventually failed. Maybe it's time to think outside the big box (or is it the big Circle?).

A lot of interesting possibilities converge at this site. It is designated in the city's Comprehensive Plan as a "redevelopment area." The state has recently-passed Amendment One, which allows tax-increment financing in places like this. Two infill, mixed-use developments (Willow Oaks and Southside) have been very successful in Greensboro. The site is conveniently positioned near US 29, which gives it easy access not only to central Greensboro, but also to the proposed urban loop.

Maybe Dr. Linder would like to sit down with city planners and discuss the possibility of a mixed housing / work / retail development like Stapleton in Denver, which was also funded by tax-increment financing. Stapleton, which stands on the site of Denver's old Stapleton Airport, is an attempt to weave a large, disused property back into the fabric of the city. Sound interesting?

It's worth at least a good, hard look.

CLARIFICATION: If you read my earlier post about Stapleton, you'll remember that a part of making that project work was the inclusion of . . . a Wal-Mart. So my point isn't that there shouldn't be any retail development at Carolina Circle. It's that retail / housing / work might be even better.

5 comments:

D. Hoggard said...

Very interesting.

As another WalMart clarification. We currently have two.

sam's notes said...

I agree with the housing/work concept. I also am not a Wal-Mart hater, though I also do not enjoy shopping there (nor Target, for that matter). But a Wal-Mart on that side of town could easily absorb thousands of shoppers in that area.

Billy Jones said...

Dude, you should be in charge of city planning or something-- great ideas.

John Sterling said...

Northeast Greensboro could easily support a Wal-Mart. The Wendover Wal-Mart is a 30 minute drive from the Carolina Circle site and the Battleground Wal-Mart is a 20 minute drive. I think it was last Fall that the News and Record ran a story on the dearth of discount retail on the east side of town. None of this speaks to the question of whether public funds are appropriate, but a Wal-Mart works there without question.

Joel Gillespie said...

Mr. Wharton speaks to a broader issue which is profoundly significant, but which may not be able to be addressed in time for the development of this particular space of our city. We do need a radical rethink about how we look at growth and develoment, and we need to rethink the typical "suburb" housing and working and shopping model. The present sprawl/suburban approach is ultimately bad, in my view, for the environment (land space space required, gasoline and air pollution resulting from commute dependence) and human community (we do better as persons when are actually in real communities where we see and say hello to each other face to face), and I would like to see such a radical change. In the mean time, in my view, and as one who does not like the big boxes either, and who does not like Wal-Mart Inc., I still think a Wal-Mart in that sector would help eastern and northeastern Guilford and would be a neighborly thing to help happen for our eastern and northeastern neighbors. For myself I'd rather NE Guilford remain rolling farmland. But I live close to all the shopping any humna could need. I don't think we have the time to provide the kind of planning model proposed, which I strongly favor, in time for this spot anyway. But I could be wrong. I am still troubled by the "story" of how the incentives thing came about, and still unsure of the facts, and would like someone to provide that narrative for me and others. The latest thing I read sounded more like the whole deal was a desparate move to bail out the current owner than to attract Wal-Mart. I would like to read a simple narrative account of how the incentive package "came to be." What really inspired Robbie Perkins to suggest it? Anyone?