Home Depot wants to build one of its giant stores with a multiacre parking lot on the corner of Lexington Parkway and University Avenue. The St. Paul City Council has authorized city officials to negotiate a financing package with the Atlanta-based corporation that could include as much as $5 million in tax increment financing (TIF), a form of public subsidy. Once a formal plan is submitted, the City Council will vote on whether to approve the development.
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On May 15, the citizens of Glendale, Arizona voted to uphold city zoning rules that will prevent Wal-Mart from building a 220,000 square foot, 24-hour supercenter. Nearly 60 percent of voters favored maintaining the zoning and keeping Wal-Mart out.
In 1999, the City Council rezoned a 39 acre site from agricultural to commercial in order to allow construction of a shopping center. City officials and nearby residents were led to believe that the center would house small, neighborhood-serving shops in a pedestrian-oriented design.
The last issue of this Bulletin reported on a grassroots effort in Petoskey, Michigan to stop a 400,000 square foot chain retail development in a neighboring township.
In April, to the thunderous applause of a packed town hall, the Bear Creek Township Board voted 3-2 to deny the developer’s request to rezone the land from residential and farm-forest to commercial, effectively nixing the big box project.
Sprawl-Busters NewsFlash reports that citizens of Belfast, Maine will vote on whether to limit the size of new retail stores on June 12. The referendum is non-binding, but will provide a guide for the City Council. A temporary moratorium on retail development over 50,000 square feet (slightly larger than a football field) has been in place since last summer. The moratorium was enacted in response to Wal-Mart’s effort to build a supercenter on the edge of town.
Last month, Ed Trudeau, co-owner of the Vista Gas Station in Burlington, Wisconsin, drove an 8,500 gallon tanker truck to a competing Citgo Station for a fill-up. Although he managed to pump only 343 gallons before employees cut the flow, Trudeau made his point. The Citgo had been selling gas below cost, a violation of Wisconsin state law.
In late April, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) settled its antitrust case against Barnes & Noble and Borders Books for $4.7 million. The lawsuit charged the two chains with using their market power to bully publishers and wholesalers into providing special discounts and favorable terms that were not made available to independent bookstores.
In February, the Domini Social Equity Fund removed Wal-Mart from its portfolio. The decision to dump the Fund’s 1.2 million shares of Wal-Mart stock was prompted primarily by concerns about the company’s labor and human rights policies abroad.
Domini had initially sought to alter Wal-Mart’s practices through shareholder activism.
Having saturated rural and suburban markets, big box retailers are making an aggressive push into central cities. In many communities, however, they are facing strong neighborhood opposition.
Last year, Home Depot, which has 1,100 outlets worldwide, announced its intention to open a store in the Hollywood neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. The corporation proposed a 4-block, multistory building that would combine a 100,000 square foot store with offices, apartments, small shops, and two levels of above-ground parking.
More than 300 residents turned out for a Town Council meeting last month in Ocean Beach, California to voice their opposition to Starbucks. The chain plans to open a store on Newport Avenue, one of the main drags running through this town of 15,000 just north of San Diego.
"There has never been a chain store on this street," noted Dawna Perkins, a member of the Town Planning Board. Ocean Beach is home to numerous locally owned businesses, including eleven coffee shops.
Two state legislators are preparing a bill to modify Wisconsin’s tax increment financing (TIF) law that will likely limit the use of TIF for retail development projects.
"I am concerned about the inappropriate use of TIF districts to subsidize two kinds of development. The first is development that would have occurred anyway. The other is big box retail development," says Rep. Peter Bock (D-Milwaukee).