The small town of Scarborough, Maine should have known better. They allowed Wal-Mart to build a new supercenter right across the street from their ‘old’ discount store. The result is an empty store waiting to become an eyesore. But the town wasn’t completely caught napping. According to the Scarborough Leader newspaper, town officials knew they were going to get stuck with a dead store, so they put Wal-Mart in a box of their own. The ‘old’ Wal-Mart discount store on Payne Road in Scarborough is 114,000 s.f., or roughly the size of two football fields. In a community with less than 20,000 people, there is not much call for reuse of this huge building. The new Wal-Mart supercenter, located across Payne Road, is a whopping 208,000 s.f. The old building, which was constructed in 1992, is owned by Wal-Mart. In 2005, the town of Scarborough imposed a condition on Wal-Mart that could solve the community’s problem. During the site review for the supercenter, Scarborough’s Planning Board insisted on a condition that requires the retailer to either develop the property — or sell it. The town was concerned that Wal-Mart would just sit on the building and land and keep it out of the hands of competitors. But the head of the Scarborough Economic Development Corporation told the Leader that he is still concerned about who Wal-Mart may sell the lot to, and that the current economy might make it hard to find a willing buyer. “I think it’s a very prime piece of property,” the local official said. The building is being offered by a private real estate company hired by Wal-Mart, but no buyers have been publicly named.
Anyone with $7.5 million can buy the old Wal-Mart. That’s roughly $63 per square foot, almost twice the cost of some other Wal-Marts now on the market. The marketing package for this store says it is “situated adjacent to a newly constructed Wal-Mart Supercenter with neighboring Lowe’s, Sam’s Club,
and Shaw’s.” The property is “located south of Maine Mall at the center of a dynamic retail and commercial regional hub,” just off interstate 95 and 295. But you can buy a 94,000 s.f. Wal-Mart in Ellsworth, Maine from the same realtor for under $40 per s.f. Even cheaper is the former 93,000 s.f. Wal-Mart in Sanford, Maine, which is going for $31.66 per s.f. — half the price of the Scarborough store. Wal-Mart has cast off all these buildings with the cooperation of local officials in Maine, who allowed the company to squander 60.2 acres of land in Maine. All three of these empty Wal-Marts were built in 1992 or 1993. The company used them for 16 years, and now has dumped them in order to gain more grocery market share. Readers are urged to email Michael J. Wood, the Chairman of the Scarborough Town Council at [email protected] with the following message: “Dear Chairman Wood, It’s hard to fathom why your town allowed Wal-Mart to leapfrog across Payne Road to a huge supercenter, when its existing building was less than 20 years old — but now you have joined Sanford and Ellsworth with the distinction of being Maine towns with dead Wal-Marts. When these stores were built in the early 1990s, I wonder what the Town Council would have said if Wal-Mart had indicated it would abandon them 16 years later. But Scarborough played along, and now you not only have a dead store, but you may have a dead grocery store or two soon, when smaller competitors go under. Add those dead stores to your inventory. You were wise to force Wal-Mart to develop or sell the property, but what are you going to do if this process just drags on? Scarborough should ask Wal-Mart to begin tearing down the building the day after its superstore opens, if no other buyer has been found. They can then restore the land to its pre-development green state, and give it to the town to develop. This empty building is not Wal-Mart’s mistake — it’s Scarborough’s mistake. Wal-Mart is now doing ‘in box conversions’ of stores this size into supercenters, instead of moving across the street. I hope that Scarborough has learned from this wasteful game of hop-scotch that big box development like this should never be allowed in your small town again. Saying No is easier than having to tear down a building.”