McAllen, TX. Dead Wal-Mart Now A Revenue Zero Library
If you want to buy an abandoned Wal-Mart, the state of Texas always has a good supply of what the retailer calls "dark stores." These are retail stores that have been shut down to make way for larger Wal-Mart superstores, often across the street or just down the road.
These large buildings are usually of little retail use, because there are very few retailers who want to use such large spaces as single owners. So the dead Wal-Marts either get carved up by a series of smaller retail users, shut down completely, or re-used for a non-commercial use, which no longer generates tax revenue for the community.
For example, in Texas, you could make an offer today on the 136,000 s.f. Wal-Mart store in Corpus Christi, or the 132,000 s.f. store in Texas City. But if you want to recyle the dead Wal-Mart in McAllen, Texas -- you're too late. The city has already turned the empty building into a public library -- and hit taxpayers with the rennovation bill.
The New York Times this week said" the dead Wal-Mart in McAllan, Texas was "enjoying an unlikely second act" as a non-revenue producing library. According to The Times, Wal-Mart has moved into a "larger location down the street." The city, aware that the dark store could easily become what the reporter called "an eyesore," the city spent $24 million in tax dollars to turn the "drab structure" into a 123,000-sf McAllen Public Library. The city shut down its old library in the downtown district last December, and opened up the new (Wal-Mart) library in another location outside of the traditional downtown.
The city is now boasting that the Wal-Mart-turned-library is now "the largest single-floor public library in the nation," as if that was some important achievement of some kind. According to the city, Wal-Mart's departure from its 'old' store allowed the city to expand its 40,000 sf main library, "which had cramped shelves and limited seating." The building renovation cost every man, woman and child in McAllen at least $185 each, or $740 for a family of four. Thanks to Wal-Mart's departure, now McAllen residents will find an electrical outlet at every library table! According to the New York Times, architects designed a new fašade, with a fountain, palm trees and cypress trees to "disguise the building's past life."
What you can do: The newspaper notes at the end of the article that "Big-box stores are being abandoned at a rapid clip, as retailers expand into larger spaces or go out of business. More than 130 former Wal-Marts are available for sale or lease around the country, and adaptive reuse of such spaces is only going to become more common in coming years." An assistant professor at Oberlin is quoted as saying, "There's not a landfill on earth big enough to put all the empty big-box buildings in."
The solution, of course, is not to build bigger landfills, or "repurpose" more dead Wal-Marts. Cities like McAllen should never have allowed Wal-Mart to shut down a huge store that obviously had more life left in it, just to waste a couple dozen acres nearby to build a larger Wal-Mart superstore.
McAllen could have told Wal-Mart: "retrofit your existing store if you want to add groceries -- but don't leave us with an empty store and sprawl on more property. Instead, McAllen moved its library out of the downtown -- where it had been for more than 60 years -- and diverted thousands of potential shoppers from the city's core downtown district.
Readers are urged to go to this link:
and send this article to McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez with the following message:
Dear Mayor Cortez,
McAllen should never have given Wal-Mart a permit to shut down its store and move into a large superstore.
McAllen is already saturated with big box stores. When Wal-Mart shuts down its superstore, is McAllen going to suggest moving city hall, the police and fire departments into their dead building? You are encouraging sprawl, and turning revenue generating commercial space into a library -- at great public cost.
This is not a form of economic development, since most of Wal-Mart's "new" jobs are in fact captured from existing merchants -- in this case from your area grocery stores.
It's time to stop this retail hopscotch, and tell Wal-Mart to retrofit its existing stores, and stop wasting land by abandoning perfectly useable buildings."