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2002-04-21
Boulder, CO. Boulderizing Wal-Mart, or Walmartizing Boulder?

Residents in Boulder, Colorado, report that Wal-Mart has signed an agreement with a California development company called Macerich Co. to become an anchor in the makeover of the 60 acre Crossroads Mall. Macerich says the Wal-Mart will spark the Boulder economy, and that their agreement with Wal-Mart calls for the company to "Boulderize the store." Or will it "Walmartize" Boulder? Wal-Mart has apparently signed off on putting the parking lot underground, and letting residences "wrap around" the building. Macerich claims their Wal-Mart will be unlike any other Wal-Mart around the world, according to the Boulder Business Report. But, then, every developer says their big box will be unique. The Crossroads Mall now is only half-filled, and Wal-Mart is seen as the savior in this newe "urban village" design. Macerich's proposal includes a movie theater complex, small- and mid-sized stores, new restaurants and a large store -- even condos. Macerich claims that to finance the redevelopment requires a retailer capable of generating $80 million a year in sales. The city of Boulder hired a New York consulting firm, to evaluate the economic viability in the project, and to evaluate the success of a tax increment financing (TIF) program, a popular form of corporate welfare for big companies. Under a TIF, the city puts up millions of dollars of future sales tax revenue generated by the revamped mall to pay the developer back for some roads and other infrastructure costs it would loan the city upfront. The City Manager in Boulder has stated that, after condemnation, the developer would grant Boulder $17-$30 million in loans to fund road and other improvements related to any proposed Crossroads project. The TIF would then allow the developer to get its money back, leaving the ongoing maintenance costs on the city. The new makeover would raze most ot the existing mall. City officials claim that Boulder is leaking retail sales to surrounding communities, where big box projects have proliferated. Often cited as Boulder's problem is the FlatIron Crossing, ten miles away in Broomfield. Crossroads Mall's sales tax revenues dropped from $3.42 million in 2000 to $1.97 million in 2001 - a 42.4 percent decline. Boulder's sales tax revenue generally fell from $66.7 million in 2000 to $62.67 million in 2001. This revenue loss has city officials talking about possible cuts to the police and other city departments. The city of Boulder has a history of lack of enthusiasm for big-box development. The only Kmart in the city recently shut down, due to competition from other chain stores. A Foley's and a Sears own their buildings at the mall. The city will have to acquire some of the land from existing family trusts, either by a sale or a condemnation process. The city would sell the land to Macerich, who would then lease a piece of the land to Wal-Mart. The company would not own their land. Meanwhile, a second developer is trying to attract Wal-Mart to northeast Boulder. But Councilman Spense Havlick doesn't thinkg Boulder needs a Wal-Mart. He told local newspapers that he believes a Wal-Mart would hurt local stores and bring a work force to Crossroads Mall that isn't paid well enough to live in Boulder. John Bisio, Wal-Mart manager of community affairs for the company's mid-West region, told The Daily Camera: "I can only confirm that we've been interested in the Boulder community for the past 15 years. We continue to remain interested in Boulder. ... We believe we'd be a good fit." But Councilman Mark Ruzzin, told the Colorado Daily "I'm not really sure it fits into the mix."


What you can do: For more than a year of negotiations, only one member of the City Council has been privy to the details. But now at least three other council members want the negotiations to be made public. Xian Izquierdo, executive director of the Boulder Independent Business Alliance (BIBA), said the group has lost confidence that the city is keeping the public informed about Crossroads."The city is desperate for sales tax," Izquierdo said, "but Boulder is a community that also has choices here." For more information, contact BIBA@BOULDER-IBA.ORG.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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