Talent, OR. City Trades Up on Dead Wal-Mart
Dead Wal-Marts -- those stores which have been left empty by the giant retailer -- are often hard to dispose of. Some "dark stores" as Wal-Mart calls them, have lingered on for years, only to end up under a wrecking ball. But sometimes a city or town gets lucky, and ends up with something better than the Wal-Mart ever could be. Such was the good fortune of Talent, Oregon.
This community of roughly 6,700 people is "situated strategically between Ashland, the main tourist destination in Southern Oregon and Medford, the county seat and the area's largest full-time population base." That's how Wal-Mart Realty describes Talent in its marketing package for store # 2069 -- a 99,894 square foot discount store originally built in 1988. Store #2069 was slated to close in August, replaced by a larger Wal-Mart superstore just miles away in South Medford. Like hundreds of other Wal-Mart discount stores built in the 1980s, the Talent store was no longer useful to Wal-Mart, so it was killed off at the age of 24.
Little did city officials realize at the time that the closure of Wal-Mart store # 2069 was one of the best pieces of news to hit this city in years.
Word came this week in The Mail Tribune newspaper that an electric motorcycle maker named Brammo Inc. was purchasing the dead Wal-Mart, driving in roughly 70 new jobs to the Talent economy -- unlike the Wal-Mart jobs which largely displaced existing retail jobs in the local economy. Brammo will take over the building as a production and assembly plant. Brammo already has three rented buildings in Ashland, Oregon, so much of the economic activity is just shifting location to Talent. But Brammo's CEO hopes to be able to expand his operations in Talent.
According to The Mail Tribune, because of a confidentiality agreement with Wal-Mart Realty, Brammo was unable to discuss how much it paid for the building. But the asking price on the retailer's Realty website ws $3.8 million for the building and 14.7 acres of land.
To be able use the Wal-Mart site for industrial production, Brammo still has to secure a conditional use permit (CUP), and a rezoning for part of the land. The city said it intends to meet soon with neighbors to explain the deal, and from there the application will go to the city's Planning Commission and City Council for approvals. Brammo said it could be inside the building by the start of 2013, leaving the store empty only for four months. Unfortunately, the Wal-Mart store is far larger than Brammo needs initially, and as much as half of the building will not be used -- more than an acre of empty space.
"We actually had a number of parties interested," a Wal-Mart PR spokesman claimed, "and Brammo seems to be a great fit." Wal-Mart often puts restrictions on its deeds that bar the use of their dead buildings for any retail activity that would be competitive to Wal-Mart -- since it is opening up a superstore nearby. So an industrial operation is perfect for Wal-Mart's needsas well.
What you can do: It is not clear what financial incentives city officials offered Brammo or Wal-Mart to consummate the land transfer. But a 24 year old Wal-Mart store will definitely need some investment to upgrade the building.
Readers are urged to email Wal-Mart Realty at: ReInfo@Wal-Mart.com with the following message:
"Dear Wal-Mart Realty,
Congratulations on being able to unload your 'old' Wal-Mart store in Talent, Oregon. I'm sure the other 95 stores you have for sale or lease across the nation will not go so easily, but you can imagine how many cities would love to replace your store with a manufacturing facility.
Many community activists would be celebrating to see their local Wal-Mart store shuttered, especially if it meant decent paying jobs with good benefits. Keep up the good work, and see if you can close more stores and replace yourself with a better economic bargain for local communities who want to live better with better jobs."