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DigitalSky

GAP Closing at University Place

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http://www.charlotte.com/mld/charlotte/13664838.htm

It will close on Feb. 23. Old Navy, which is also owned by Gap Inc., will continue to operate its University Place location.

"It's a difficult decision whenever we decide to close a store," said Kimberly Terry, spokesperson for Gap Inc. The factors Gap reviews when it considers closing a store are the number of Gap stores in the market, the location and store performance, Terry said.

Gap recently opened a store at the new Northlake Mall on W.T. Harris Boulevard near Interstate 77. Gap also has an outlet store at Concord Mills.

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University city is the ultimate in bad design strip malls. It was build just before the more modern new urbanist style like Birkdale Village became so popular. Its ironic as University Place/City started out as being the first New Urbanist development in Mecklenburg county but turned out to be exactly the opposite.

It doesn't help that the demographics are changing there too.

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There was a University City Partners conference at the architecture school yeserday morning. It was all about where to create a "town center" for the UC. They had two very successful planners from other cities speak, (one talked mainly about the qualities of good transit-oriented development as well as a town-center in general... the other covered the political/funding side) as well as the owner of the Shoppes at University Place, and then there were breakout brainstorming sessions. It was good to see so many people who are concerned about the vitality and sustainability of the area (including the new UNCC chancellor). The first two speakers were excellent, and lots of people during the breakout sessions had great things to say. However, I didn't really care for what the Shoppes owner had to say. He definitely had the attitude of a retail owner. He mainly talked about the goal of lifestyle centers, but put pretty much his whole emphasis was on the RETAIL market that places like that are targeting as well as the philosophies behind it. He talked briefly about a sense of place that is created in those developments but his complacent and accepting attitude about the "phoniness" thereof was rather annoying (he said "build a bridge and get over it, either you get this now or wait 50 years for the real thing to grow organically").

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University city is the ultimate in bad design strip malls. It was build just before the more modern new urbanist style like Birkdale Village became so popular. Its ironic as University Place/City started out as being the first New Urbanist development in Mecklenburg county but turned out to be exactly the opposite.

It doesn't help that the demographics are changing there too.

True, very ironic the 1st "new urbanist" development turned out like this... I mean it beats other shopping centers though, I love the lake section there.

that Gap looks interesting....looks kind of big for a Gap actually...

Architectually, yes it is interesting for a GAP. you don't see a GAP like that everyday.

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Gap's on a downward spiral anyway. They created Old Navy and upgraded Banana Republic and both stores are eating Gap's lunch. They're in the process of closing most of their lower-volume stores nationwide.

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True, very ironic the 1st "new urbanist" development turned out like this... I mean it beats other shopping centers though, I love the lake section there.

Architectually, yes it is interesting for a GAP. you don't see a GAP like that everyday.

Indeed. It was New Urbanist before that term was coined. However the only part of it that was built with the idea that people would work, live and shop within walking distance is the small part around the East side of the Lake. Basically starting at the Hilton and going counter clockwise until you reach the funky looking condos that face the lake. Directly across the street at that point there is also a set of cluster homes (also the first in Charlotte) kind of hidden from view. All of that was built around 1984 or so. I think. Keep in mind that at this time there was nothing else up there but UNCC and the newly built University Hospital. The Hospital was the first thing built there which went against plans for the area. I was told that the Charlotte Hospital authority and NCNB (now BofA) push the right buttons to get the zoning changed so they could build car oriented development at Harris and Tryon.

Flash forward 10 years to 1994. The area around University City never developed as was intended as the city council continued to cave into the developers and allow nothing but stip development to occur in the area. (The Mecklenburg County Council is also to blame as they did zoning then.) Case in point the strip mall at Harris and Hwy 49. That particular development caused a redesign of the intersection of that road to its present very awkward arrangement. There are no sidewalks in the area, Harris has been expanded several times to multiple lanes and it is automobile heaven. As a result University city itself kind of died off. The city/county continued to approve really bad development in the area because it is around this time that Lowes, the huge strip mall anchored by Home Depot and Kmart, and University Place were all approved. It wasn't long after this that Harris was connected to I-77 at one end and E. Independence at the other making it a very busy auto corridor. (this is thanks to the NCDOT which has absolutely no interest in building roads to support local plans)

The really disappointing thing about University Place, is that it was connected to the other side of Univeristy City, but they choose to make it automobile oriented. As a result, there are huge divides between the stores and the only way to get to them is to drive. It could have been much different.

Flash forward 12 more years to 2006. The area is now in pretty bad decline from a retail perspective. For one it is being killed by similar development further out at Concord Mills, and now NorthLake is going to compete against it. Its a classic case of building chain store automobile oriented crap, and ending up with crap. I place most of the blame for this on the Charlotte/Mecklenburg City Councils and the NCDOT for allowing the money grubbing developers to build stuff such as this.

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Gap's on a downward spiral anyway. They created Old Navy and upgraded Banana Republic and both stores are eating Gap's lunch. They're in the process of closing most of their lower-volume stores nationwide.

Steven you couldn't be more spot-on. I got a Gap gift certificate for Xmas and almost never shop there (I do like Banana though). I was surprised to find a very nice dress shirt that I then wore on New Year's Eve. Several people commented on how much they liked my shirt and asked where I got it. When I told them, they couldn't believe it. I kept hearing, "OMG, the Gap??? But it's so nice!" It's a sad commentary when a store that used to be known for high-quality and classic clothing garners nothing but shock and surprise when they actually sell something attractive and well-fitting. Downward spiral indeed.

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Steven you couldn't be more spot-on. I got a Gap gift certificate for Xmas and almost never shop there (I do like Banana though). I was surprised to find a very nice dress shirt that I then wore on New Year's Eve. Several people commented on how much they liked my shirt and asked where I got it. When I told them, they couldn't believe it. I kept hearing, "OMG, the Gap??? But it's so nice!" It's a sad commentary when a store that used to be known for high-quality and classic clothing garners nothing but shock and surprise when they actually sell something attractive and well-fitting. Downward spiral indeed.

Yeah its not as exclusive as it was 10 years ago......I think they opened way too many stores.....and now they are dealing with the consequences......the Eastland store closed a few years ago, and in Columbia we used to have 2 stores and a few years ago one of them closed, so now we only have one.........Charlotte has way too many: SouthPark, Northlake, Concord Mills, Carolina Place, Carolina Mall(in Concord), Birkdale Village, University, and if you include Eastridge in Gastonia it makes it 8......I think its better to have fewer than too many.....

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There's also one in the Arboretum. I think part of the problem (aside from market saturation) is the general Wal*Mart-like "clearing house" appearance of their stores. There always seems to be tables with mounds of $4.99 items strewn all over the place and rounders packed with, well.. junk basically. Even the displays look shoddy and dressed with wrinkled/lint-laden items. Plus the staff doesn't really seem all that knowledgeable or helpful. I used to work in a Gap in college in the early 90's (one in NY and for a very brief time in the SouthPark store when I first moved here) and it's a totally different feel now than it was back then. I really think that they shifted their primary focus more to teens -- with always-marked down pricing and subsequent drop in quality to match -- and abandoned their core audience of upper-scale adults. They need to steer Gap more toward Banana (not too close to cannabalize BR's sales though) than Old Navy, IMO.

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Indeed. It was New Urbanist before that term was coined. However the only part of it that was built with the idea that people would work, live and shop within walking distance is the small part around the East side of the Lake. Basically starting at the Hilton and going counter clockwise until you reach the funky looking condos that face the lake. Directly across the street at that point there is also a set of cluster homes (also the first in Charlotte) kind of hidden from view. All of that was built around 1984 or so. I think. Keep in mind that at this time there was nothing else up there but UNCC and the newly built University Hospital. The Hospital was the first thing built there which went against plans for the area. I was told that the Charlotte Hospital authority and NCNB (now BofA) push the right buttons to get the zoning changed so they could build car oriented development at Harris and Tryon.

Flash forward 10 years to 1994. The area around University City never developed as was intended as the city council continued to cave into the developers and allow nothing but stip development to occur in the area. (The Mecklenburg County Council is also to blame as they did zoning then.) Case in point the strip mall at Harris and Hwy 49. That particular development caused a redesign of the intersection of that road to its present very awkward arrangement. There are no sidewalks in the area, Harris has been expanded several times to multiple lanes and it is automobile heaven. As a result University city itself kind of died off. The city/county continued to approve really bad development in the area because it is around this time that Lowes, the huge strip mall anchored by Home Depot and Kmart, and University Place were all approved. It wasn't long after this that Harris was connected to I-77 at one end and E. Independence at the other making it a very busy auto corridor. (this is thanks to the NCDOT which has absolutely no interest in building roads to support local plans)

The really disappointing thing about University Place, is that it was connected to the other side of Univeristy City, but they choose to make it automobile oriented. As a result, there are huge divides between the stores and the only way to get to them is to drive. It could have been much different.

Flash forward 12 more years to 2006. The area is now in pretty bad decline from a retail perspective. For one it is being killed by similar development further out at Concord Mills, and now NorthLake is going to compete against it. Its a classic case of building chain store automobile oriented crap, and ending up with crap. I place most of the blame for this on the Charlotte/Mecklenburg City Councils and the NCDOT for allowing the money grubbing developers to build stuff such as this.

That is a very good overview of the history of University Place and how it affected the developments around it and around University City.

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Thanks. The bad thing about it. Hwy 51 from Matthews to Pineville had already become a similar type of disaster, yet knowing this, they continued to approve the same exact type of development on Harris. And we can see, they got the same results.

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Wow a Gap at Eastland....I can't picture it lol....how long ago did that one close? I'm guessing around 2000ish because it seems like that's when the Eastland closings started in full force....from what I've gathered anyway....

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Steven you couldn't be more spot-on. I got a Gap gift certificate for Xmas and almost never shop there (I do like Banana though). I was surprised to find a very nice dress shirt that I then wore on New Year's Eve. Several people commented on how much they liked my shirt and asked where I got it. When I told them, they couldn't believe it. I kept hearing, "OMG, the Gap??? But it's so nice!" It's a sad commentary when a store that used to be known for high-quality and classic clothing garners nothing but shock and surprise when they actually sell something attractive and well-fitting. Downward spiral indeed.
Gap's best store is its website. That's the only place you can find the depth and range of merchandise the offer. The stores have practially nothing by comparasin. If I were them, I'd do more "flagship" type stores with more sizes and better quality merchandise, because they do carry some nicer things; it's just that nobody sees it at most of their mall stores.

There's also one in the Arboretum. I think part of the problem (aside from market saturation) is the general Wal*Mart-like "clearing house" appearance of their stores. There always seems to be tables with mounds of $4.99 items strewn all over the place and rounders packed with, well.. junk basically. Even the displays look shoddy and dressed with wrinkled/lint-laden items. Plus the staff doesn't really seem all that knowledgeable or helpful. I used to work in a Gap in college in the early 90's (one in NY and for a very brief time in the SouthPark store when I first moved here) and it's a totally different feel now than it was back then. I really think that they shifted their primary focus more to teens -- with always-marked down pricing and subsequent drop in quality to match -- and abandoned their core audience of upper-scale adults. They need to steer Gap more toward Banana (not too close to cannabalize BR's sales though) than Old Navy, IMO.
The mid-'90s store design is really tired. I liked the giant GAP sign (circa 2000 design) period, but that's when the clothes started going downhill. I agree that there are way too many sale racks at Gap. Part of it comes from bad merchandise choice (thanks to uninspired buyers and designers). Part of it comes from the need to increase comparable store sales, and it's become endemic among most major retailers, even places like Saks Fifth Avenue. Check out this article from New York magazine that I posted to my blog:

[url=http://stevenswain.blogspot.com/2006/01/markdown-onomics.html]Markdown-onomics - The cold, hard truth about why the post-Christmas sales started before Christmas this year-and why stores don

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There is a new Gap at Birkdale Village that looks pretty nice.
That is a nice looking store. Kind of looks like an adaptive reuse, even though it was built from the ground up as a Gap. Birkdale's a nice devleopment overall.

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