Wal-Mart announced this week that it plans to build its 18th store in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota area, by purchasing a struggling 17 acre retail mall, and adding a Wal-Mart superstore to the mix. The site, which is located in Plymouth, Minnesota, would include a 150,000 s.f. Wal-Mart. This project represents yet another attempt by Wal-Mart to locate in Target’s hometown state.
“The key here is it’s a revitalization of a very distressed retail area,” a Wal-Mart spokesman told the Star Tribune newspaper. “We’re really looking forward to what we can do for the area.” Wal-Mart hopes to control the Four Seasons Mall in Plymouth within the next month.
A community development director for Plymouth told the Star Tribune that Wal-Mart has met with him at least twice to explore their concept plan for the site. No application has yet been filed, and the project will require a rezoning to accommodate a big box store.
The Four Seasons Mall was last purchased in 1996 for $2.7 million. The mall is now valued by the county at roughly three times that amount, or $8 million. The current owners tried to sell it two years ago for $12.5 million. The original buildings in the mall were built in 1978. Today half the tenants are gone, and the major anchor store is a natural foods store.
Residents in Plymouth don’t have to travel far to find cheap Chinese underwear. Wal-Mart superstore #1864 is located just 7 miles northeast in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. There is also a Wal-Mart superstore 8 miles to the northwest in Maple Grove, Minnesota. There are 18 Wal-Mart’s within 25 miles of Plymouth, including six supercenters.
According to the Star Tribune, city officials in Plymouth are concerned about having a Wal-Mart superstore so close to single-family homes and townhouses, which are abutters to the project. “City staff does not believe this use fits in with the comprehensive plan for the city and specifically this area,” the city’s community development director told the newspaper. “A big box is not what was envisioned for this property.”
Last month, the city convinced Wal-Mart to underwrite the cost of a transportation study that will look at the scale of the proposed store, and if the local roadways can accomodate the traffic it will produce. City officials have suggested that the current mall’s owner intentionally did not re-tenant the mall as businesses left, in order to make it more attractive to a big box store. The owner asserts that he did not intentionally leave space vacant.
Wal-Mart still has a number of discount stores in the Twin Cities region, which will all be expanded into superstores that carry a full line of grocery products. If a discount store cannot be expanded, a new superstore will be constructed nearby, and the discount store will become a ‘dark store.’ Wal-Mart Realty has 4 dead stores currently on the market, the largest of which is 131,000 s.f. Instead of just converting existing stores into superstores, Wal-Mart is looking for new sites, or struggling malls.
Readers are urged to email Plymouth Mayor Kelli Slavik at [email protected] with the following message:
“Dear Mayor Slavik, One of the City’s 2010 goals is to ‘protect Plymouth’s strong financial position.’ The Wal-Mart superstore project will have an adverse impact on many existing businesses in the city, and will undermine your main economic goal. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that rezoning of the Four Seasons Mall is not an ‘as of right’ propostion. Plymouth can say No to a project like this — and should.
This project does not fit into your comprehensive plan, and your economic development staff are correct to point out that a big box store is not compatible with your Comp Plan.
Regional planning for retail development helps avoid saturation and duplication of retail uses. Anyone in Plymouth who is addicted to cheap Chinese underwear can find it easily only minutes away at the Wal-Mart superstore in Brooklyn Park and Maple Grove. The existence of these two superstores just minutes away is just one reason to deny this project.
Other existing merchants, especially grocery stores, will lose sales and possibly close, reducing public revenues and jobs. Inviting Wal-Mart in is like inviting cannibals to dinner. I urge you to testify against this rezoning before the Planning Board.