Last month, the Target corporation told the media that it would open up 21 new stores in 12 states, which is about one-seventh of the growth pace of its largest rival — Wal-Mart. But when you are expanding in ‘only’ 21 sites, there are only 21 opportunities to run into fierce opposition.
Target hit the bullseye in Kailua, Hawaii, a community of roughly 50,000 residents, where locals have been waging a pitched battle to stop the Minnesota-based retailer for well over a year. There are at least three separate community groups now opposed to the Target.
On the list of new Target stores this year is a site in Hilo, Hawaii, slated to open in July of 2011. The Hilo site will be the fourth Target in Hawaii.
The list for 2012 stores will include a site in Kailua, which Target hopes to open by July of 2012. The 7 acre site in Kailua is located on Hahani Street, on the site of a Don Quijote store, which will be torn down. The property was owned by the Kaneohe Ranch. The existing building on the site is just under 90,000 s.f. Target says the store will create 250 ‘new’ jobs — but has not calculated how many existing jobs will be destroyed by their project.
To help convince local residents to support the store, the retailer has created a website just for the Kailua project, where the company claims that it carefully selected the site. “We evaluate and approve investment in new store opportunities, like Kailua, one-at-a-time,” Target explains, “after analyzing extensive data on existing store performance, demographics, competition and market potential. The Don Quijote site was chosen because we are confident Target will have a long-term home in the community and believe we complement existing retailers, providing high-quality, well-designed merchandise plus life’s essentials at affordable prices.”
Target says it understands the “village feel” of Kailua, and so has proposed a “significantly smaller” store of 130,000 s.f. which is bigger than two football fields. “That is a significant change to what we would normally do in a market like Hawaii,” a Target spokesperson said. “That was in direct response to the fact that we knew Kailua wanted a smaller store.” Even the colors of the store will “blend in,” Target claims — using dark wood, lava rock, and beige and sand colored paint.
But opponents are not buying this ‘lava rock’ public relations gibberish, and have launched their own website too: nokailuatarget.blogspot.com. Opposition to the store began as letters to the editor as early as October of 2009, when rumors of the project began to appear in the media. The group No Target Kailua says it was originally comprised of a small group of individuals concerned about the scale of a store like Target coming to Kailua, O’ahu.
“Our grassroots effort,” the group says, “has grown to include hundreds of individuals who have connected via email, informational blasts, and is continuing to expand every day. Our goal is to catalyze action, consolidate efforts, and create effective communication as we TOGETHER work to preserve and maintain Kailua’s ‘small town’ feeling.”
In an email to Sprawl-Busters at the end of November, 2010, opponents expressed their major concerns over the traffic impact of this project. “Target’s plans to mitigate traffic address only the street immediately fronting the site,” the group wrote. “It will do nothing to improve the congested roadways that lead into Kailua, most of them narrow, two-lane streets winding through residential neighborhoods — bumper-to-bumper traffic even without the addition of 20 percent more cars coming to a Target.”
Target has promised to spend more than $1 million in traffic improvements — but most of that money will be spent on improvements right at the site to give cars easier access to the store. Target will pay for a new traffic signal at Hahani Street, and new left-turn lanes and crosswalks. These are all investments Target is making on itself.
Although opponents have clamored for a real traffic impact study, Target insists that it will only do a traffic study after the store has opened — which is tantamount to waiting for an accident to happen to determine how badly people have been injured.
The opponents note that Target’s proposed 130,000 s.f. store is 40,000 s.f. over the “Koolaupoko Communities Sustainable Plan,” which set a big-box limit of 90,000 for Kailua. The landowner produced two reports in 2004-5, in which the biggest issue raised by 86% of the Kailua residents was traffic. “Years later,” says No Target Kailua, “our traffic situation continues to get progressively worse! Yet before our eyes, we see continued out-of-control and out-of-scale development occurring in Kailua.”
On January 28, 2010, Target announced that it had actually purchased the site. “This allows us to make the type of major investment it will take to build a new store… it also demonstrates our long-term commitment to the community of Kailua.”
The Honolulu Star Advertiser newspaper this week asserted that Target will begin building this spring — despite the opposition from “a vocal group of residents who fear the big box giant will change Kailua’s small town charm… and cause further traffic congestion.” One resident was quoted as saying, “If they would consider a smaller store, I think there wouldn’t be the depth of resistance to it.”
Target has told the community that it “has a deep appreciation for the uniqueness of Kailua and our team members have been working hard to thoughtfully tailored the new store to reflect the town and its residents. This is an important element of the store planning and building process and a tradition we bring to all of our new store sites.” The retailer says: “We can’t successfully integrate into the Kailua community unless we hear from you.” But they clearly are not listening.
Kailua is governed by the city council of Honolulu. Readers are urged to contact Mayor Peter Carlisle, District 3 City Councilor Ikaika Anderson, and the rest of the Honolulu City Council at the following emails: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] with the following message:
Dear Mayor Carlisle and Council Members, There is no reason why Target cannot produce a smaller bullseye for Kailua. Its competitors, like Wal-Mart, are now building superstores as small as 78,000 s.f. This current Target plan for Hahani Street is out of scale, and out of character with the rest of Kailua. This store will dwarf the new Whole Foods market, and will be twice the size of a football field. This kind of suburban sprawl may be commonplace on the Mainland U.S. — but it has no place in Kailua. The traffic study should be done now — and mitigation proposed now — not after the store is built. Most of the money Target is promising to spend is for roadway improvements right in front of their store.
It’s up to local government to stand up for residents and small businesses, and tell a developer to make Target fit Kailua — not the reverse.”