When Home Depot announced last week that it was pulling out of plans to build another giant store in Columbus, Ohio, some people were more pleased than disappointed. The retailer had tied up the Columbus Urban Growth Corporation, the city’s non-profit development company, for months of negotiations, only to abruptly leave them holding the bag. A 130,000 s.f. Home Depot was supposed to be the jewel in the crown of the new NorthlandPark project, and no sooner had the retailer announced it’s withdrawal, then the project sponsors started saying the Home Depot was too big for the plans anyway, and that the community didn’t want them in the first place. Home Depot, for its part, suggested that the decision to bolt the project was based on the fact that they already have a Home Depot store four miles away on Cleveland Avenue. Why it took the company months to discover that it already had a store in the vicinity was not clear. Northland Community Council President Tom Nann told the Daily News, “We had concerns about the new store meeting the Northland Standards after it was built because the Home Depot on Cleveland Avenue has never met those standards, and they promised us they would before we agreed to the construction of that store.” Critics of Home Depot charged that a big box store was not compatible with the master plan for the Northland Park, which called for a mix of retail and housing on the site of a mall which closed in 2002. With Home Depot gone, Nann said, the project can “refocus on mixed use development, a mix of retail and residential. I can say this though, (we) will not support any type of big-box development in NorthlandPark.” Columbus City Councilwoman Maryellen O’Shaughnessy, told the Daily News that Home Depot’s announcement was a blessing in disguise. “I wasn’t entirely disappointed by the announcement because I had concerns about the scale of the proposed Home Depot. This gives us another opportunity to get something in there that fits better into a neighborhood-scale development.”
Isn’t it amusing that city officials are falling over each other to point out how inappropriate the huge Home Depot was for this development — but only after Home Depot jilted them? If Home Depot had stayed in the plan, those city critics would have forever remained silent, despite the fact that the Home Depot did not fit into a “neighborhood-scale” vision for the community. If Home Depot did not notice that they had a store 4 miles away, perhaps their real estate people should be instructed in how to use the “store locator” button on Home Depot’s website. They would have saved the company, and the community, months of aggravation. In this case, the story has a happy ending, and Home Depot is rapidly becoming just an unpleasant memory at NorthlandPark.