The deepening recession has hit the Target — literally. The giant retailer has been hurt by a steep drop in sales. As the economy slides south, Target has had to apply the brakes on some projects that were surprisingly far along. One of those projects is located in the city of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. This community is home to approximately 30,000 residents. According to city officials, the community is comprised of 28 square miles of “rolling wooded terrain.” This week, city officials learned that their rolling terrain will not include a Target store anytime soon. Located in Northern Dakota County, Inver Grove Heights is in close proximity to the Mississippi River Valley, which gives the city a beautiful natural setting. The Target corporation, which is headquartered in Minnesota, had hoped to be part of this beautiful setting, but those plans have come to an abrupt halt. CBS Station WCCO reports this week that Target has stopped work on building a SuperTarget 85% of the way through site infrastructure work. The sudden halt to construction was described by the media outlet as “rare.” Work on the larger mixed use development, called Argenta Hills, actually stopped two months ago. A Target spokesman admitted that the project is now on hold. “Right now, it’s premature to confirm updated timing or speculate on the future direction of this project,” she said. “We are continuing to look at all of our new store projects across the U.S. on an individual basis to determine which projects are financially feasible in the current economic climate, and we’ll make modifications as the retail environment changes.” Like Wal-Mart, Target has announced a slow-down in its expansion plans for 2009, but the Inver Grove Heights freeze on work is a sign of financial distress for the retailer. Target’s same-store sales dropped more than 4.% in December, and more than 10% in November, 2008. The Argenta Hills project is owned by developer McGough Company. It’s a mammoth 400,000 s.f. development, but now the entire plan is on ice. A spokeman for McGough said work will thaw out in the spring, and the project as a whole will open in 2010 — a year behind schedule. Mayor George Tourville of Inver Grove Heights put the best face on the freeze as possible. “They own the land,” the Mayor told the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal, “so they’re going to build. It’s just a question of when.”
It’s not just a question of when.
Target could scrap the project and try to sell it to another retailer, or just write off the project as a loss. The fact is, this Target superstore is not needed in the first place. There’s an existing SuperTarget a short drive north on Route 3 in West St. Paul. These large stores should be considered regional facilities, and shoppers should get used to the fact that these are not neighborhood-scaled projects, so you will not have them in every community. Readers are urged to email Mayor George Tourville at: [email protected] with the following message: “Dear Mayor Tourville, You should take advantage of the hibernation at the Argenta Hills project to plan better for your future growth. The halt in Target construction is actually great news for existing merchants who will only lose sales when the larger store opens. This is not a form of economic development for your community, and the scale is wrong for a city of your size. As another Mayor in Minnesota once said: “It’s not how big you grow, but how you grow big, that matters.” It takes leadership to prevent sprawl. Now’s the time for the Mayor to propose a cap on the size of retail stores, so that Target’s mistake is now repeated by other big box stores. More and more communities are imposed a size cap, and Inver Grove Heights has a chance now to lead growth, rather than simply follow it. Let’s hope the SuperTarget never gets finished, and your city gets back on a targeted growth plan that uses land in a more efficient, pedestrian-friendly manner. Anyone who is addicted to cheap, Chinese imports can take a short drive north to the West St. Paul SuperTarget there. There’s no compelling market need for another regional superstore in Inver Grove Heights. Keep your rolling wooded terrain, and project from the concrete and asphalt big boxes.”