SkyscraperCity Forum banner

Wal-Mart goes inner city

1780 Views 3 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  Bham24yrold
Wal-Mart seen as win-win
Sunday, April 29, 2007
News staff writer

Local retail developers and a downtown development advocate say Wal-Mart's plan to build a Supercenter on a former industrial site in Titusville is a good idea that makes economic sense for the Birmingham neighborhood and the nearby city center.

Bryan Holt, vice president for Retail Specialists Inc., and Hugo Isom, a partner with The Shopping Center Group, make a living helping major retailers choose successful sites.

And while Operation New Birmingham has taken no official position on Wal-Mart's plans, ONB President Michael Calvert said the retailer would be a significant amenity for people who live and work downtown, where there has been little retail development in years.

On Wednesday, the board of the Jefferson County Economic and Industrial Development Authority will consider Wal-Mart's offer for the land. Some elected leaders have spoken out against the proposal, saying Wal-Mart is a short-sighted use for the Trinity site.

But Holt said he believes Wal-Mart is the best use for the site, unless there is an industrial use similar to a Honda plant, but that is not what residents want and need.

Such an industrial use would likely require significant public incentives, he said. Wal-Mart is not asking for incentives and its offer includes $1 million for neighborhood enhancements.

"That is a fantastic windfall for the city of Birmingham and that neighborhood," Holt said, adding that he believes Wal-Mart will draw additional development in a shadow anchor center. "They'll line up like they do next to every Wal-Mart."

Upscale shops possible?

As for the Trinity site's chances of attracting upscale retailers, Holt is doubtful. For major retailers entering the Birmingham market, the top three options are the area around Hoover's Riverchase Galleria, the area around U.S. 280 and The Summit, and Trussville, he said.

Those are the top three options because of a variety of factors, including high median incomes, access, visibility and synergy, which means there already is a built-in shopping center base.

In Titusville, where grocery stores have closed, the synergy would have to be created from scratch, Holt said.

"In my mind, there is zero chance of attracting upscale retailers there, because you have other options in Birmingham," he said.

Isom said retailers base decisions about locations on facts, such as demographics, as well as shopping and traffic patterns.

"In the end analysis, facts don't lie," he said.

So, looking at Wal-Mart's proposal with that same objective perspective, Isom said the retailer is a good thing for Titusville, because it creates opportunities for jobs and sales tax revenue on a site that has been empty for years.

"I think it's a great opportunity for the city and the community of Titusville," he said. "People who live there will work there and shop there. Moreover, it's going to serve as a regional draw for people who live on Southside."

Eyes once on Southside

With ONB's help, Wal-Mart originally looked at downtown, particularly Southside, for its plans, Calvert said. But they had problems assembling a site large enough to accommodate a Supercenter because it would have required cutting off streets, some of which are heavily-traveled.

Calvert said he assumes Wal-Mart is interesting in penetrating the downtown market, which has a growing number of loft residents as well as some 80,000 people who work in the city center.

While downtown has had some retail development, it would be dwarfed by the amount of investment Wal-Mart is eyeing at the Trinity site, Calvert said.

According to an economic impact analysis done by the authority, Wal-Mart plans to spend $15 million in construction on the site, on top of an unspecified offer for the land. The analysis projects 400 new jobs and $85 million in annual sales, with a combined $4.7 million annual economic impact for the city and county.

An adjacent 17 acres could be developed for retail or other mixed-use.

David Fleming, executive director of Main Street Birmingham, which promotes neighborhood commercial districts, said a development the size of Wal-Mart's plans has not been proposed in Titusville in several decades.

Median income for the zip code surrounding the Trinity site is $25,310, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics from 1999, the latest year available.

Elsewhere, median income tops $60,000 in the areas surrounding The Summit and Colonial Pinnacle at Tutwiler Farm in Trussville, and it reaches nearly $70,000 around the Galleria.

Wednesday will mark the authority board's first opportunity to discuss the terms of Wal-Mart's offer. Any agreed-upon contract must still be presented to Wal-Mart's real estate committee for approval.

Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot and Birmingham City Councilman Steven Hoyt have spoken out against the proposal, questioning the authority's marketing of the site and saying it could attract something better than Wal-Mart.

Jeffrey Bayer, founder and principal of Bayer Properties LLC, developer of The Summit, said there is a simple solution to the controversy: an objective study done by professionals that will show what will be successful on the Trinity site.

But the key, Bayer said, is for people to listen to the professionals' work and take the emotion out of the process.

The work would be based on demographics, such as age, income and employment, and psychographics, which are lifestyle characteristics.

"Retailers look at demographics and psychographics, and they don't lie," he said.

They are not involved in the Wal-Mart project, but see a winning formula in the proposed deal for the 27-acre former Trinity Steel site.
See less See more
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
Big box stores like Wal Mart are now attempting to rejuvinate the same city centers that they helped destroy? Logic, anyone?
Supposedly it would be a brick facade in an attempt to at least look a bit more urban. I don't think this could be a bad move... could there be a better move? Yes, probably. But I think a development like this could spur further retail growth in that area around Titusville. The main thing is that Walmart is ready... now. Any other proposals would have to be investigated, evaluated, and then maybe nothing would even happen. I'm not sure it's the best move in the long-run, but it might very well be a good move for the present. It could always be bought out and demolished later if that land was indeed in high demand.
Looks like a done deal

Wal-Mart offers to pay $4.6 million in Titusville
Thursday, May 03, 2007
News staff writer

Wal-Mart is offering to pay $4.6 million for land in Birmingham's Titusville neighborhood to build a Supercenter. A Jefferson County economic development panel Wednesday approved continued talks with the retailer on the project.

The Jefferson County Economic and Industrial Development Authority's board reviewed highlights of a draft agreement with Wal-Mart, and members, along with residents and elected officials at the meeting, expressed support for the plans.

But the board's attorney noted several unresolved items in the contract, such as details of environmental and development plans and a plan to address minority business involvement.

The board agreed to give its staff and legal counsel more time to hammer those out.

Board Chairman Allen Pate said that while the project has been contentious, he thinks it has gained a lot of support recently.

"This also gives us more time to work with those who still oppose it and hopefully all get on the same page," he said.

The authority owns the 27-acre former Trinity Steel site on behalf of Birmingham and Jefferson County, which bought it for $2.6 million in 2005 to redevelop. The authority also has options on 17 adjacent acres for retail or other uses.

Wal-Mart's $4.6 million offer is for 22 to 25 acres. The offer includes $1 million for community revitalization.

There have been more than 10 development interests in the site over the past year, Pate has said, but Wal-Mart provided the only written offer.

Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot and Birmingham City Councilman Steven Hoyt, who were both at Wednesday's meeting, have been critics of the project, saying the Wal-Mart project is a shortsighted use of the land.

Smoot disputed a presentation at Wednesday's meeting that included the history of marketing efforts for the site.

"Marketing has never been done properly at this site," she said. "There are other offers but they're not here because we haven't marketed."

Hoyt, a member of the authority board, said he previously did not have all the information about the deal. After the presentation, he said he sees good things in it, but he said the board needs to hold Wal-Mart accountable on its plans.

A particular concern, he said, is that the project reflects the demographics of Titusville and that Wal-Mart embraces minority participation in every aspect of its business. He called Titusville a historic beacon of Birmingham and said many professionals have come out of the community.

"I would like to see that be reflected in the building of this project," he said.

A handful of residents attended Wednesday's meeting.

Lillian J. Reynolds talked about Titusville's glory days as a bustling community.

While she supports Wal-Mart, she hopes additional development will include other shopping options. "Whatever it takes to bring back what I am accustomed to in my neighborhood, I say to you, move quickly," she said.

James Steele, a trained architect and city planner, said he supports the Wal-Mart project as a mechanism to transform the community. "It is a remarkable opportunity, I think, for any developer who is interested in the urban community to make good," he said.

Other board members said there have been open discussions in their meetings about the plans for the Trinity site, which they want to include additional development.

Also at the meeting were Jefferson County Commissioners Jim Carns and Bobby Humphryes, who encouraged the board to move forward with Wal-Mart. Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid, who was not at the meeting, also has said he supports the project.
See less See more
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.