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Targeting Changes in Big Box Stores

The October/November issue of New Urban News has a nice article on Target stores:

Until recently, all Target stores were the typical single-story boxes with surface parking. But in the last half-decade, Target has built or acquired 35 multilevel stores with structured parking and another 8 stores with parking underneath. In all, about 3 percent of Target’s 1,350 stores nationwide have unusual urban formats that Target calls “unique.”

The full article is brief but highly recommended.

One of the key messages from this article is Target and other retailers change from their standard big box and big parking when forced to. But the stores are also a success with higher sales to offset their higher development and operating costs. While the new Target at Hampton & Chippewa is okay it is not the urban model we should have downtown.

As much as I want to support local retailers I do think a single Target in the downtown area would be good for both the retailer and the downtown residents. Some may suggest the ever changing St. Louis Centre shopping mall but I was thinking further West — somewhere between Tucker (12th) and Jefferson, North of Market and South of Dr. ML King Drive. We’ve got a number of vacant city blocks that would be excellent for such a store.

One of the main problems with newer stores is the lack of windows along the sidewalk either to the sales floor or window displays. Some solutions mentioned in the story is newer versions of displays that might include media but what I like most are called “liner stores” — smaller stores that line the sidewalk to create interest.

We are thankfully witnessing the beginning of the end of the big box store in a sea of parking. Yet not far from me the already obsolete Loughborough Commons is being built — complete with two big boxes, more parking than required by code, and several outparcels. The whole site faces the all mighty interstate and backs to the adjacent residential. We need more enlightened developers, or just more enlightened elected officials to force developers to give us good design over sprawl.

– Steve


St. Louis’ THF Realty Creating Anti-Pedestrian Sprawl in Colorado

Billionaire & Wal-Mart heir Stan Kroenke’s development company, THF Realty, is continuing to create more sprawl across the land. This time they are taking 2,000 acres of Colorado farm land and converting it to a generic wasteland of big boxes, massive streets and boring office parks.

To appease critics the project includes an 80 acre wildlife area for eagles. The remaining project will be a devotion to the automobile. The most glaring example is the last sentence from the following from contractor RG Brinkman:

“The Buckley Road Street Improvement consists of constructing 2 miles of major arterial roadway to connect the north end of the Prairie Center site to the south end. Buckley Road is an essential connection of the new residential construction occurring south of the Prairie Center project. This new construction includes all necessary utilities and paving required to serve the retail portion of this site. A pedestrian underpass with a skylight also is being constructed to allow for access to the future school.

A pedestrian underpass for the kiddies!?! Wow, that sounds really appealing — a street so challenging to cross we must put pedestrians underground. I can’t imagine spending $500 million destroying 2,000 acres and at not at least making it so people can walk from place to place without having to duck under roadways.

I found this quite telling as well:

The mass grading for the Prairie Center project consists of the mass overlot grading for a 250 acre commercial section of property. Approximately 1.5 million cubic yards of material had to be moved in order to provide the required elevations for the building pads and parking lots for the Prairie Center project.

That is some serious earth moving. But when you are plopping down 100,000sf big boxes with parking you just can’t keep natural grades like so many small town main streets.

If such a development was created fifty years ago or even thirty years ago I might understand, most planners just didn’t know any better back then. But in the last 20 years we’ve seen the rise of alternatives to this commonplace sprawl in the form of New Urbanism. THF Realty must know of New Urbanism and the concepts of making developments accommodate both pedestrians and cars. It just seems they ignore good planning in favor of continuing the old ways.

Additional Information on Prairie Center:

  • St. Louis Business Journal
  • Prairie Center overview
  • New Home depot (w/pictures)
  • Additional Information on alternatives to THF’s typical sprawl:

  • NewUrbanism.org
  • Congress for the New Urbanism
  • New Urban News
  • Wikipedia encyclopedia
  • Sierra Club on sprawl
  • EPA on Smart Growth
  • Smart Growth America
  • Project for Public Spaces
  • Remember, “this land is our land.” We are the ones that should determine the fate of our built environment. Will it be sprawl as usual or will we return to places for people?

    – Steve


    Olivette City Council to Consider Resolution to Limit Eminent Domain

    Olivette Missouri City Councilman Andrew Glassberg has introduced a resolution to limit eminent domain. The measure is on their City Council agenda Tuesday, November 22nd, at 7:30pm.

    Over the years Olivette has considered a number of big box proposals that would have likely required eminent domain. For various reasons, including citizen objection, these proposals have all failed. Glassberg’s resolution is not intended to block any current proposal but to be a pro-active step to help his city avoid the problems faced by other municipalities.

    The following is an introductory letter from Glassberg:

    City Manager McDowell, Mayor Zoole-Israeli, and Council colleagues:

    I hereby request that an agenda item considering the adoption of a resolution restricting the use of eminent domain be added to the City Council agenda for our November 22, 2005 meeting.

    In order to begin the discussion, I am introducing the resolution adopted by the City of Ellisville, and attaching a copy to this email. Obviously, it is my intention to substitute “Olivette” for any reference to “Ellisville.” I request that the attached Ellisville resolution be included with the agenda item in next week’s Council packet.

    I am introducing this particular version because it was specifically recommended by the Olivette-Creve Coeur Chamber of Commerce to the City of Creve Coeur. I also like the fact that it references the use of eminent domain over both residential and commercial properties in a way that both protects property rights and facilitates development.

    One item missing from the Ellisville ordinance is any provision regarding the use of eminent domain allowing its use to prevent a small number of holdouts from stopping an otherwise worthwhile project. While I will want to introduce language to that effect I believe it would be useful to hold a discussion regarding the specifics of what such language should look like.

    Here is the text of a resolution unanimously passed by the Ellisville City Council in August:



    WHEREAS, the City Council desires to express its intention that the use of the power of eminent domain with regard to residential properties for the benefit of a private developer solely for a private economic development project having no other public purpose is contrary to principles of sound government; and

    WHEREAS, to reassure the residents of Ellisville of the City Council’s position in this regard, we put forth our intention not to authorize the use of eminent domain by a private developer solely for a private economic development project having no other public purpose in a residentially zoned area. The city reserves the right to use eminent domain for those traditional areas in which eminent domain has always been used such as building of roads, development of parks and other public uses; and

    WHEREAS, before authorizing the use of eminent domain in connection with any redevelopment project in a commercial or industrial zoning district, the city will first seek the partnership of local interest in areas contemplated for redevelopment and will proceed only with the concurrence of substantial numbers of the affected parties or if necessary to eliminate conditions that the City Council considers to be harmful to the public welfare; and

    WHEREAS, while no existing Requests For Proposals state that the City will authorize the use of eminent domain, nonetheless any such Request for Proposal shall be deemed amended to exclude use of eminent domain except as stated herein; and

    WHEREAS, the city has not previously used and will not in the future use its power of eminent domain to blight residential property solely for private economic development purposes.


    SECTION 1: The City Council will not grant a private developer the use of eminent domain in a residential district solely for a private economic development project having no other public purpose as set out above.

    SECTION 2: The City Council will consider amending the Ellisville Home Rule Charter to protect the private property rights of all Ellisville residents.

    SECTION 3: The City Council pledges to partner with our State Representatives to seek equitable legislation that would create a level playing field for all Missouri property owners.


    Eminent domain is the big issue of 2005 with valid points on all sides of the debate. Although it might be nice to try, completely eliminating eminent domain as a tool for development probably isn’t realistic or even advisable. Similarly, allowing eminent domain (or just the threat of eminent domain) to continue unchecked is unjust.

    Many people, when faced with the loss of their home and/or business, simply resolve themselves they are the little guy and can’t win a fight. Therefore, most agree to sell without the actual use of eminent domain — the threat is sufficient enough. In most municipalities the process starts with blighting an area — setting the stage for eminent domain if it comes to that. So the real culprit is not eminent domain but the blighting process which leads to the threat of eminent domain.

    The Olivette City Council meeting is located at 9473 Olive Boulevard (map). The meeting is open to the general public, including non-residents.

    – Steve


    Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

    November 16, 2005 Big Box, Events/Meetings, Local Business Comments Off on Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

    Yesterday I watched the new documentary film, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. The film is as one-sided as the critics claim. But when you are up against the world’s biggest retailer you don’t necessarily want to argue their side. The film is a must see.

    A public screening of the documentary will be held Friday night at Mad Art Gallery, 8pm. The event is being sponsored by the independent business organization, BUILD St. Louis. From their press release (PDF):

    “BUILD hopes the Wal-Mart documentary screening will increase local discussion about the impact of consumer dollars spent at chain stores as opposed to local, independent stores.”

    This film is an important work. I felt a number of emotions as I watched: anger & sadness were the top two. BUILD St. Louis & Mad Art are requesting a $2 donation at the screening. Doors open at 7pm and the screening begins at 8pm.

    – Steve


    Upsetting the Bike Community By Speaking Up About Sprawl Makers

    Last night I resigned my position on the board of the St. Louis Regional Bike Federation. At issue was THF Realty, the builder of sprawling big box projects such as Maplewood Commons on Hanley.

    Why would a developer be an issue to a bike group?

    Simple, someone over at THF Realty likes bicycling so they give money each year to various local groups, including the St. Louis Regional Bike Federation. Because of this I’m supposed to show good judgement by not speaking out against them.

    In a recent interview for Point to Point Cycling News I was asked the following question:

    Resolve this conundrum: THF Realty is responsible for some of the most anti-pedestrian developments in St. Louis and elsewhere. Yet, they are also the biggest financial supporter, by far, of cycling events and teams in the area. Is this just a big PR stunt. Should cyclists be a bit more critical of this support?

    Here was my response:

    Thank you for asking this question. I’d love to see the entire cycling community refuse money from THF. THF is wreaking havoc on the planet and accepting their money is an endorsement of how they gained the money. While we are working to make the built environment more connected and friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists they are profiting while creating anti-bike and anti-pedestrian sprawl.

    For the full interview click here (PDF, see page 18).

    THF Realty’s chairman is Stan Kroenke, #164 of the Forbes list of 400 Richest Americans with a net worth of $1.8 Billion. Kroenke’s wife is an heir to the Walton Family of Wal-Mart fame.

    A few thousand dollars is sofa change to them yet it manages to keep otherwise vocal transportation advocates silent. This is hush money in my book. It seems to be effective. You get a group used to some money and pretty soon they come to expect it. Once they expect it they become dependent on it and fear the loss of the money. Wait, we’ve heard this before haven’t we? From the Post-Dispatch:

    If Belleville turned down the tax incentives, would Wal-Mart look for a site elsewhere? “Oh yes, I’m sure we would,” Bornstein [of THF Realty] said.

    And that lies at the center of the debate over TIFs. Cities feel as though they must give them. The existing Wal-Mart, about a mile away, is the largest producer of sales tax revenue in Belleville. That store, by the way, was expanded in 1993 with another TIF.

    If Belleville won’t play ball, THF could buy land a half-mile away in Shiloh. Belleville would be left with nothing.

    So the local bike community is in the same boat as Belleville; dependent upon on money from the big box and afraid to do anything about it. It really is sad that an organization that purports to improve the region for bicyclists is afraid to speak out against a company that is arguably one of the worst offenders in the St. Louis region — topping even Desco. Any individual, group or municipality that is in such a position is compromised beyond the point of being impartial. They’ve been bought. Credibility goes in the trash once you’ve been bought. Just ask Metropolis. [Note: see the comment below on Metropolis & my reply; 11/9 @ 4:20pm]

    I will continue to push for bike racks throughout the city and a downtown bike station, just not as a board member of the St. Louis Regional Bike Federation.

    – Steve

    [UPDATE 11/9 @ 9:15am – I want to make it clear that I fully support the mission and work of the St. Louis Regional Bike Federation. I have been friends with a number of board members for years. For me personally I cannot sit quiet while the THF’s of the world run amuck. I will support programs of the Bike Fed (such as pushing for more bike parking), just not as a board member. I wish them all the best of luck. – SLP]