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Big Box Redux


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13 replies to this topic

#1 tombarnes

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Posted 16 November 2008 - 11:18 PM

An Exploration of What Might Be Done With Aging Big-Box Stores

Today's Washington Post has an excellent discussion about what might be done with the aging big-box stores which litter our landscapes. The suggestions are varied, but most seem to focus upon housing or a combination of housing and retail space. A few of the ideas are quite creative. These big-box stores don't go away easily so their adaptation to other uses is a challenge worth pondering. My biggest problem with most of them is that they are in areas which are decidedly anti-urban. The ideas which propose taking such dead spaces and turning them into little "chunks of cities" is really clever. If we can reclaim even a fraction of the suburban sprawlotopia for the city, we will have accomplished something.

The Washington Post

 

#2 Neo

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Posted 17 November 2008 - 04:51 PM

There are some amazing designs in there...designs that I never would have created out of an empty big box store. Most of the vacant big box stores that I've seen are in areas of cities that are taking a nose dive and with it come higher crime for example. Converting these to something akin to one of these designs would do wonders for bringing vitality back into the neighborhood.

#3 cloudship

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Posted 17 November 2008 - 07:30 PM

The real solution is to reuse as another big box store, so that you don't have to build new ones.

One of the problems with Big Boxes is how they are handled. In some cases, they are owned outright by the retailer. In many cases these retailers are happier to let a building sit vacant than to let it go to possible competition. So you end up with these vacant sheels in otherwise vital areas. Thos4e vacant buildings in turn drawn down the vitality of an area, until the whole thing tanks.

In other cases, perhaps most, they are owned by leasing company. this company does not see a big box retailer - they see retail space. Hopefully it will be rented out as much as possible. Sometimes they hold on until a better paying retailer comes along. Sometimes they cave in and go with the discounters. But then that usually spells the end of any chance of getting one of the bigger paying retailers to come in.

From a structural point of view, Big Box stores are relatively simple. One big adaptable open space. They are quick and cheap to put up. They can also be cheap and quick to tear down. I am not sure "saving" big boxes is a major priority - I think there are better uses for that space. I think we need to find greener ways to deal with that tearing down, and I think much of that comes into the design when built int he first place. I don't think it is worth putting in lots of materials and resources into trying to reuse something that would be less wasteful to replace.

#4 Gard

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 07:31 AM

The real solution is to reuse as another big box store, so that you don't have to build new ones.

In other cases, perhaps most, they are owned by leasing company. this company does not see a big box retailer - they see retail space. Hopefully it will be rented out as much as possible. Sometimes they hold on until a better paying retailer comes along. Sometimes they cave in and go with the discounters. But then that usually spells the end of any chance of getting one of the bigger paying retailers to come in.



I wanted to add that many of the Bix Box retailers have contract agreements with the landlord for that space that stand even after they vacate it. For example, the town I went to college in had an old Wal-Mart that had been sitting empty for 5 years and Target decided they wanted that location. The landlord and Target entered into negotiations for the space and as soon as they did, Wal-Mart filed a lawsuit against the landlord for breech of contract. Wal-Mart, in turn, won the lawsuit and got damages and the landlord not only had to pay damages, but couldn't lease it to Target. Today, it STILL sits empty, 6 years later.

#5 suburban george3

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 12:38 PM

Big Boxes can be retasked into multiple functions, if leases allow. I have seen:

A former Winn-Dixie turned into county offices in Boone, NC
A former WalMart turned into a call center in Johnson City, TN
A fomer Lowes Foods turned into a BB&T operations center in Winston-Salem, NC
A former Winn-Dixie turned into a church in Clayton, NC
Multiple former grocery stores are now Peak Fitness or other fitness centers.

I do like the designs in the article posted though..

#6 tamias6

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 07:59 PM

In my home town an old K-mart building was converted into a power center consisting of a Petco, Bed Bath and Beyond (now closed), A large book store a Cosmetic store. Another K-mart in town was converted into a factory.

#7 DiamondDave

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 05:57 PM

About 4 years ago, I sat down at my computer and dabbled in a design to re-use a Builder's Square in my home town that had been sitting empty for several years (part of it still is). I came up with assisted living. WHAT? is what I heard from my wife, mother and father (a 50 year veteran in commercial and industrial construction). I showed them a sketch and they kinda still were unsure. I still think that my 2 story assisted living would have been great. I had a 2 story courtyard that contained a senior center with areas for games, reading, activities as well as a food court. From one side of the courtyard there are secure corridors, decorated like old village streets that lead to the units. off the other side are corridors that lead to doctor, and dentist suites as well as a redi-med and pharmacy. The parking lot was turned into fenced in green space and the lawn and garden area was made into a green house for those who wanted a small garden. If only I had some $$$ I would have done that and I would have been in that article :)

On a second note, we have a developer here that took and old K-mart, and I mean OLD, like 1960's old and converted it into a conference and convention center with multiple banquet rooms all done in first class oak paneling and granite columns, a commercial kitchen with catering facilities and a lounge area. it's hard to believe it was a K-mart.

I love the idea of reusing these big boxes, tearing anything down, just leads to wasted landfill space.

#8 suburban george3

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 02:43 PM

Wanted to bump this back up and also bring up what do cities do now with all vacant commercial and especially VACANT AUTO DEALERSHIPS! With Chrysler closing close to 800 and GM probably going to shed over 2,000 when everything is said and done with, these things are EVERYWHERE!

I travel with work, and have noticed in many towns and cities in the SE at least one major auto dealership facility has either been vacated due to closure or consolidation. While some of these dealerships are on the periphery of a city, some are in major commercial corridors. What can we do with these 'White Elephants?' Many have a myriad of service bays configured specifically for auto repair and large surface parking lots?

While I don't know what to do with the ones that are not in high traffic areas, maybe the others could be turned into public transit facilities with shopping? You have the ability to park hundreds of cars, easy access to main roads, some have large showrooms that could be converted to smaller retail or municipal satellite offices (sheriff, police, etc.)

Any other ideas?

#9 DiamondDave

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 04:22 PM

Wanted to bump this back up and also bring up what do cities do now with all vacant commercial and especially VACANT AUTO DEALERSHIPS! With Chrysler closing close to 800 and GM probably going to shed over 2,000 when everything is said and done with, these things are EVERYWHERE!

I travel with work, and have noticed in many towns and cities in the SE at least one major auto dealership facility has either been vacated due to closure or consolidation. While some of these dealerships are on the periphery of a city, some are in major commercial corridors. What can we do with these 'White Elephants?' Many have a myriad of service bays configured specifically for auto repair and large surface parking lots?

While I don't know what to do with the ones that are not in high traffic areas, maybe the others could be turned into public transit facilities with shopping? You have the ability to park hundreds of cars, easy access to main roads, some have large showrooms that could be converted to smaller retail or municipal satellite offices (sheriff, police, etc.)

Any other ideas?


I would say that's a great idea, like a carpool center. But here in the economic crisis belt (Michigan), the only real car pooling was to said GM, Chrysler factories. As for public transit, we can barely keep our city buses funded.

Since the government has it's fingers in closing down these dealerships, I say let them buy, renovate and occupy them as you said for satellite police / fire or other government offices.

As for the big boxes, I know one township that is considering a moratorium on new commercial/retail construction until the vacancies drop. I think it's a great idea, but only if it's done on a wide scale basis, otherwise your just cutting off your development and letting the adjoining municipality reap the tax dollars.

#10 cloudship

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 05:59 PM

As for Dealerships, I have to say don't pull the plug just yet. With the reduction in the traditional Big 3, there is a real opening for new manufacturers to come into the country. In the business world anything is possible, but there are a number of manufacturers that are not represented now tha very well could be in the not too distant future. I would rather let these new places take over existing dealership that have closed that to turn the closed dealerships into something else and then have NEW dealerships open up.

But that goes back to the idea of Big Box retail - the companies shouldn't be allowed to prevent competition from taking over a place they choose to vacate.

#11 cloudship

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 09:25 PM

REviving this thread - the discussion is about reusing big box retail space. But those are not the only "ungainly" buildings out there. In the Orlando thread we are talking about the old Amway arena. There is another giant urban blight building that gets abandoned. What would you do with something like that? It is a specialized structure, but how could you reuse it?

#12 DiamondDave

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 08:44 AM

I've heard things like a giant aquarium for buildings like Joe Louis Arena in Detroit since the Wings want to move to a newer larger facility. I think that would be cool, but many things could be done with a huge open space with a roof over it. Floors could be built in the arena and the building converted into offices or a casino. Just think of it as a giant big box.

#13 BFG

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 05:10 AM

Great topic!

Here in Virginia Beach, they converted an old electronics store into a flea market. That flea market burned down a few years ago and relocated to...a bowling alley. I haven't been inside the alley/flea market yet, but would like to see it. A friend of mine told me that a former CompUSA store in Norfolk was recently converted into a Chinese buffet. I found that extremely odd.

Don't know if they still use it for that purpose, but in Irving, TX, they converted an old Food Lion into the main post office.

On the flip side of the Amway Arena deal, I'd love to see a big-box converted into a multi-purpose arena/convention center. I honestly wonder would that be more expensive than building an arena from the ground up.

#14 DiamondDave

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 07:41 AM

Here in lowly Saginaw Michiga, a developer turned an old K-mart into a multi room convention center. They did a great job turning old steel posts into faux marble colums and plain old 2x4 ceiling tiles into decorative 2x2 tiles, in some rooms they are panel style oak. The facility is top notch for sure. A few years ago I did a design for an old lumber/home improvement store to be converted into a "mixed use mall". I divided the building into various size suites with common toilet room facilities and a food court. The store fronts were done like an old english village and the corridors resembled coble stone walks with lamp posts. The suites were geared to professional services such as lawyers, doctors and dentists with some specialty retail mixed in. The Michigan economic depression hit, so it hasn't been built as of yet.

"Thinking outside the 'big' box" is becoming a common term. Something needs to be done, and soon. In our small community of about 250,000 residents, we have empty, an entire strip plaza that was anchored by kmart and office depot, we also have empty a; circuit city, media play, builders square, sams club (they built a bigger store across the street) linens and things, pep boys, and two kroger stores, Just off the top of my head.






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