Officials in Franklin, North Carolina are getting cold feet over plans for a Wal-Mart supercenter. The reaction comes on the heels of a local retail plaza owner making it clear that the proposed supercenter will devastate the shopping mall where the “old” Wal-Mart is located. The owner of the Holly Springs Plaza predicted dire consequences if a new supercenter were to shut down the existing Wal-Mart. According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, the owner of a hair salon in the Holly Springs Plaza told officials, “All Supercenters have a beauty shop. It will be more competition for this area with the beauty salons that are here and it might hurt us for a while. We would just like to keep things the way that they are.” An official from the Phillips Edison & Company, the Cincinnati-based real estate firm that owns the Holly Springs Plaza, told the Citizen-Times that he spoke to Wal-Mart officials this week about possibly expanding the store’s current location. Wal-Mart reportedly told him that the giant retailer had hit a snag in the site it was interested in on Highlands Road. Phillips Edison wrote a letter to the Franklin Aldermen explaining that they would be hard-pressed to find a tenant for the 93,000 s.f. Wal-Mart building, and that smaller retailers are not interested in competing with a supercenter. The Plaza would lose its smaller tenants, like its Chinese restaurant, if the Wal-Mart discount store became empty. Franklin Alderman Bob Scott said he is concerned about what a new supercenter would do to the town. “I would like for the designers of this supercenter to come in and sit down and work with the town and come up with something that would be in keeping with the principals of growth we just adopted,” he told the newspaper. “We don’t want just another box. We really don’t. There’s enough of those floating around now.”
In fact, there are, at any point in time, between 300 and 350 dead Wal-Mart discount stores “floating around” — including 15 “darks stores” in North Carolina alone, with a total currently of 1.169 million square feet of buildings for sale or lease. That’s enough space to fit 24 football fields. This makes North Carolina one of the leading Wal-Mart graveyards in America. It appears from this story that local officials are concerned about what would happen to the “old” plaza where the Wal-Mart discount store would close — but that Wal-Mart’s supercenter plans for Franklin had nothing to do with the concerns of other merchants. The “snag” that Wal-Mart hit was certainly not concern over the future of the Holly Springs Plaza. But it’s refreshing that the old mall spoke up for itself, and told the truth that the town would be left with an eyesore instead of a mall.