Some of the big box retailers are promoting “urban” designs with great fanfare, as if they had discovered a new concept. For Wal-Mart, it was their first “multi-story” building in the Panorama Mall, a central city project in Los Angeles, CA, complete with “vermaports”, a form of escalators for shopping carts. Now its Home Depot touting two proposed “urban” stores in Chicago and Brooklyn, NY. The plans for the Chicago ‘urban’ store call for a 4 story, 80,000 s.f. building, with the top two floors devoted to parking only. The first two floors would be retail space. A 40,000 square foot store is roughly one-third of the normal Home Depot prototype. But local businesses and residents near the proposed store say it will dominate the one and two story neighborhood, and is still too large for the area. Ironically, there is already a full-sized Home Depot roughly a mile and a half from the urban store site. Neighbors also point out that there are three local hardware stores within three blocks of the Home Depot site. “I think we are pretty well serviced with the hardware stores that are already in the area,” one resident told the National Home Center News. “How many places of that size do you need?” The parcel of land is zoned retail, but local residents can still argue the size and scale of the project are too big, and will create too much traffic congestion.
The concept of a multi-level store is good, and big box retailers should be encouraged to cut down the size of the footprint. In this case, the issue is what size footprint is compatible with the neighborhood. If developers would sit down with neighbors and work these numbers out in advance, they would save themselves, and the community, a lot of bitterness and rancor. The response in Chicago by neighbors is also affected by the fact that Home Depot is already 5 minutes away. Such saturation of stores has only one purpose: hammer the smaller stores into the ground.