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2001-12-16
Ithaca, NY. Target Jumps Ship from Widewaters Plan

On June 1, 2001, Newsflash carried a story about the Target Corporation's efforts to locate a huge store in the viewshed of Buttermilk Falls in the city of Ithaca, New York. City residents spent several years successfully driving a Wal-Mart off the same parcel of land, only to face Target a few years later. The Target project is being promoted by the Widewaters Group based in DeWitt, N.Y. But Widewaters seems to have sprung a leak, as word comes this week in the Ithaca Journal that Target has pulled up anchor on the project. The Journal reported on December 13th that Target ended its lease to be the anchor tenant of the Widewaters' mall. In fact, Target departed in late October, but Widewaters held onto the letter for roughly a month, faxing the letter to city officials around Thanksgiving. An official from Widewaters told the city that approval delays caused by the city had "spooked" Target. The Minnesota-based corporation is reportedly looking for other sites outside of Ithaca. But Widewaters indicated that they are still keeping Target updated on the progress to get city support for the controversial plan. Widewaters actually had obtained a green light from the city in December of 2000, but a lawsuit by citizens uncovered errors in the city's review procedures. The withdrawal letter from Target says that because Widewaters has not received "final unappealable" approval from the city, the developer is not "in a position to close this transaction". So Target told Widewaters it was pulling out of the transaction immediately. Ironically, the city's Planning and Development office is allegedly ready to approve the Widewaters 200,000 s.f. shopping center right after Christmas. The city review process does not examine what logo fits on what building, but a Target drop out likely means the next tenant will want a different building footprint, requiring Widewaters to come in with a new plan. The chairman of the Planning Board in Ithaca told the Journal that Widewaters' relationship with his board had been "an unsteady one". This is perhaps because the developer sued the city in 2000 over conditions the board included as part of its initial approval in December of that year. In fact, the city's Deputy Director of Planning & Development told a reporter from another newspaper that "she was personally disappointed to learn that Widewaters had secretly tape-recorded the first two years' worth of negotiations with the city." The Ithaca planning official told the Greene County, PA Messenger newspaper that Widewaters was 'intimidating' and suggested the newspaper 'be careful' when investigating them. The Pennsylvania newspaper was doing research on Widewaters because of the developer's plans to locate a big box store in Waynesburg, PA. City officials told the reporter that the Widewaters project in Ithaca could break ground as early as the end of 2001. Whether or not Target is part of that ground-breaking is now not clear.

What you can do: Some observers think that the letter from Target to Widewaters was just a means of placing more pressure on the city to speed up the approval process, to create the appearance that Target was ready to jump ship. For contact with residents who are fighting Widewaters and Target, go to the June 1, 2001 newsflash on Ithaca.










 
 
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