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2008-02-12
Collinsville, IL. Another Dead Wal-Mart Gets “Upcycled”

On January 12, 2008, Sprawl-Busters reported that a 94,860 s.f."dark" Wal-Mart discount store on West Market Street in Tiffin, Ohio had been purchased by a commercial developer called U.S. Properties Group (USPG). The real estate company expected to take possession of the empty Wal-Mart by March. The reported closing price to USPG for the building was $1.7 million. There were 14 dead Wal-Mart stores up for lease or sale in Ohio at the time of the sale. Wal-Mart currently has 1,098,672 s.f. of "dark stores" in Ohio. That's the equivalent of nearly 22.5 football fields of abandoned space. This week, USPG was at in again, buying up another dead Wal-Mart, this time a 99,364 s.f.store in Collinsville, Illinois. Wal-Mart has 15 dead stores for sale in Illinois today -- not counting Collinsville. The Wal-Mart discount store in Collinsville was shut down last year when the company put up a supercenter. The new 204,000 s.f. Wal-Mart Supercenter opened at the 53-acre Collinsville Crossing retail development. USPG says it is not recycling these empty stores, but "upcyling" them instead. USPG owns, manages and develops shopping centers in ten states, and has brought numerous big-box retailers to dead stores. This is the company's first venture in Illinois. "They have a good reputation of bringing in tenants," the Collinsville Community Development Director told the News Democrat. "The typical life span for a Wal-Mart to be on the market is a year-and-a-half, so we're way ahead of schedule." A spokesman for USPG referred to the Wal-Mart store as a "ghost box."


What you can do: To USPG, "upcycling" means the company leverages its relationships with retailers to revitalize communities by renovating dead stores. "We get real estate off the books," the company's vice president of leasing told the newspaper. "We get it back to productivity as fast as we can because we don't make any money until we do it. It's a pretty simple business model." One option USPG has is to break the building down into smaller units. People in this part of Illinois are familiar with 'ghost boxes.' Another Wal-Mart was emptied out in Belleville. That 126,486 s.f. store is listed as available for lease by Wal-Mart Realty. The process of building and abandoning stores has reached unprecedented heights with Wal-Mart. No other retailer in the history of America has ever built and then left so many actively productive stores. Wal-Mart has been criticized for the environmentally reckless business plan it began in the mid 1990s, when the company began replacing perfectly useable discount with a larger format superstore. The format change was made simply because supercenters generate more customer traffic and profit -- not because the discount stores were failing. This paradigm shift has resulted in the closure of more than 1,000 discount stores since 1995 -- one of the most wasteful uses of land ever seen in the commercial sector. Wall Street analysts have criticized the company for carrying all these dark stores on their books. In recent years, Wal-Mart has made a super effort to dump these stores -- even giving them away or selling them at low, everyday prices. At its high point, Wal-Mart Realty was trying to dispose of as many as 350 dead stores. Today, the total stands around 200. At least one-third of these stores are over 100,000 s.f., and many remain on the market for three years or longer. USPG is basically acting as a real estate bottom-feeder, buying up abandoned stores at an everyday low price, and remarketing them. The problem is, many retailers don't want someone else's abandoned floor plan. But USPG says it has sold stores to Target, Kohl's and other companies looking to avoid the lengthy development process, and just find a turnkey location. The fact remains, some empty Wal-Marts have become such a blight, that the deteriorated stores had to be torn down -- usually at the expense of local taxpayers. Tens of thousands of acres have been blacktopped for the temporary occupancy of Wal-Mart. The retailer has demonstrated that it arrives in a new community with its bags already packed. For earlier stories, search Newsflash by "dark stores."










 
 
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