If Home Depot offered your community $1 million to take their store, would your town turn them down? That’s what they did in Reading, MA, a community just northwest of Boston. The Board of Selectmen put out a bid to solicit interest in purchasing their closed landfill. Two bids came in: one from a developer proposing an office park complex and luxury hotel, the other for a Home Depot. As the bidding went on, the Home Depot developer kept offering more “sweeteners”. Home Depot offered: 1) $5 million to pay for capping the landfill; 2) 3 new recreational playing fields for the town, including a major league regulation baseball diamond and two soccer fields; 3) a public bandstand for concerts; 4) $1 million for the town to use any way it wished! But even with all these goodies on the table, the town of Reading still said “no thanks” to Home Depot. Why? Part of the answer lies in a group calling itself The Reading Business Coalition. A group of 25 local businesses, the Coalition sent on open letter to the newspaper opposing Home Depot as “poison” for the small business community. The group noted that the town had worked for several years to revitalize the downtown, and that Home Depot would undue much of that progress. “The charming picture they paint is not what they claim it is,” said the business group. The Town Manager also pointed out that the bid proposal for use of the landfill did not want a retail use for the landfill site. Maybe Home Depot thought the color of their money would turn heads in this small town. But in the case of Reading, MA, the town literally wouldn’t take a Home Depot for a million bucks! In fact, six million bucks!
Write to Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner, Town Hall, 16 Lowell St, Reading, MA 01867 and congratulate him for having the common sense to turn down Home Depot’s multi-million dollar deal. Spread the word in your community about what happened in Reading, and tell developers that your town also is not for sale to the highest bidder.