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Thread: Demolition bonds for big-boxes?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Demolition bonds for big-boxes?

    http://www.jsonline.com/news/metro/jan05/289861.asp

    This appeared on the front page of today's (Tuesday, 2005-01-04) Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal. It is about a proposed ordinance in the City of Wauwatosa, WI (an inner tier Milwaukee suburb of about 50K population) that would require the developer of a commercial building larger than a certain size to place enough cash into an escrow account to cover its demolition costs should it sit vacant for a certain minimum amount of time.

    Even though I am pretty much a free-marketer, I do agree that a sledgehammer such as this, as well as laws prohibiting 'no-compete' deed restrictions, may ultimately be necessary. There are too many of these larger buildings sitting vacant (and often unusable due to no-compete deed clauses) not to look into it.

    Any thoughts?

    Mike
    Last edited by mgk920; 04 Jan 2005 at 11:47 PM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Some day historic preservation advocates will look back in anguish at all of the large retail stores that the past generation demolished in the name of progress. Just like the old courthouses, movie palaces, and the other defining landmarks of our built environment, countless big box stores will be lost to posterity. We will remember them nostalgically as the community gathering places; the evolution of the public market. Meanwhile, we will pop out our handheld, order dinner and shop through the airwaves, and wonder why we never interact with people anymore.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    I know we considered a similar ordinance... as did Charlotte. I know we abandoned it due to legal concerns... I think Charlotte did too. With that being said, if you forced a developer to construct a building that is not "branded," then vacancy is a bit easier to deal with. At least that was our thought when we did our design ordinance.
    Every time I look at a Yankees hat I see a swastika tilted just a little off kilter.
    Bill "Spaceman" Lee

  4. #4
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I don't know about requiring an excrow account for their destruction since these buildings can be reused. However, I do agree with requiring the deed restrictions be flexible for future tennants.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman
    I don't know about requiring an excrow account for their destruction since these buildings can be reused. However, I do agree with requiring the deed restrictions be flexible for future tennants.
    True they can be. It's not just a matter of deed restrictions though. A willing seller is unwilling to sell to a direct competitor. They would rather sit on a dark empty old building than have a new store become a loss leader. This is a mechanism to force them to take action and meet the $ expectations of their shareholders one way or another (notice I did not say community.

  6. #6

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    I'm divided on this one. Part of me agrees that some sort of tool should be used to hold big-box retailers accountable, and to minimize the impact of 100,000 sf vacant eyesores. But the other part of me says we as planners need to push these guys to make the buildings more adaptable and amenable to reuse.

    I am sure of one thing -- vacant malls, big boxes and shopping centers will increase in number and blight the suburban landscape, in the same way that vacant storefronts blighted inner cities.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    Some day historic preservation advocates will look back in anguish at all of the large retail stores that the past generation demolished in the name of progress. Just like the old courthouses, movie palaces, and the other defining landmarks of our built environment, countless big box stores will be lost to posterity. We will remember them nostalgically as the community gathering places; the evolution of the public market. Meanwhile, we will pop out our handheld, order dinner and shop through the airwaves, and wonder why we never interact with people anymore.
    You know your right. Some of the "finer" ones will be preserved because of they exhibit the epitome of big-box design. Others, will considered just another big box.

    The one thing that most big boxes lack that even many old warehouse and industrial facilites had was a human feel or quality to the building. Tilt up panels don't make me think of the craft and labor put into construction. Hell, maybe they'll be the 22nd century's lofts
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Considering that these guys often open stores just to run smaller competitors out of business, I've fantasized about regulating the industry such that they have to get permission from the ICC or something to close a store. They could have to show to the agency how the local community will get its groceries or whatever they're selling if they close, and what they intend to do to ameliorate the vacancy.

    There was a time in this country that this would be seen as simply ensuring that a large operator fulfilled its responsibility to the community. But in today's climate, it'd be seen as evil government intervention in the glorious and all rightous Free Market!

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally posted by boiker
    You know your right. Some of the "finer" ones will be preserved because of they exhibit the epitome of big-box design. Others, will considered just another big box.

    The one thing that most big boxes lack that even many old warehouse and industrial facilites had was a human feel or quality to the building. Tilt up panels don't make me think of the craft and labor put into construction. Hell, maybe they'll be the 22nd century's lofts
    Exactly how long doyou think a typical Home Depot building will last?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by pete-rock
    Exactly how long do you think a typical Home Depot building will last?
    Well lets see: built to be a 3-yr positive cash flow with not construction debt, built to last as long as a market is anticipated to last, built to be abandoned/massivley remodeld in 15-20 years, taking into consideration present economic conditions and trends..... carry the 1.


    They normally last -5?

    I don't know... 25 years max and major major work needed to rehab at that point.

    back on topic:

    Is it right to impose site demo requirements/bonds or deed restrictions on private investors? The concept sounds fine in terms of preventing poor use of the land for the benefit of the community. This is an arm of land-use law/regulation that I'm not too familiar with and I'm interested in learning more of the theory behind the policy.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  11. #11
    I like what they are trying to do, but I think they are going about it all wrong. I think that measures like stricter design, greater greenspace requirements, and other non-monitary restrictions would suffice. Requiring developers and businesses to tie up such a large sum of money indefinitly is going way too far. If you are going to do it for big box, why shouldn't you do it for officesm hospitals and industrial buildings too?

    If buildings are designed well and the business fails it will be more attractive to other businesses either as a single tenant building or as a building that can be divided off to accomodate several users.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  12. #12
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmm.....

    If the big box structure is vacant for some period of time, say 9 months or a year....then maybe a bond to "deconstruct" the big box would at least push the owner into allowing another user in the building? This gets back to design issues in my mind:

    1. Shouldn't the big box structure be designed in such a way as to accomodate future subdividing of the interior space? At least two ingress/egress points facing each ROW that the store is on....?

    2. Everything about the site design should anticipate the inevitable fall of the company and future use of the site.....Parking lots, landscape, access....blah blah blah....If its bigger than a grocery store, then it also has to look better.....I'm starting to see some very nice grocery stores pop up, but not so much for the big boxes....A big diconnect between the two......sadly.....

    But then again, these are just concrete $#!% boxes that could be torn down and replaced with something designed to be used for future uses......same thing goes for the vacant fast food restaurant structures that can't be used for anything else (at least not without looking and fealing funny in the community).....

    Look,.....at some point, some genius (probably a City Manager looking for $$$) decided that allowing an "industrial" building, which is what these big box structures really are, should be allowed as commercial uses on COMMERCIAL zoned property, when in reality they should be located in Industrial or at the very least HEAVY COMMERCIAL areas. And don't give me that "but our regulations didn't take these things into account" sob story.....SURE they did (warhouses, wholesale, retail= PUD's ) Oh and don't forget that the structure is industrial in character, whether or not it is located on commercial zoned property.
    I mean come on, half these things are proudly called "warehouses" anyway, why didn't we treat them as such......part of it has to be the money, but that's silly because you would get the money anyway.....people will go to the place, if its on a corner or not.......
    Just imagine if warehouse districts of decades ago had been open for retail business, selling greatly reduced price goods right out of the big boxes that they were......people would have gone there (if there was parking or a place for their horse.... ). So now we're converting the old warehouse districts into residential and transfering all that old space out into the hinterlands in the form of sprawl via big box retailers....

    How about an ordinance that forbids Heavy Commercial/industrial class structures anywhere but Heavy Commercial/Industrial property?
    Skilled Adoxographer

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by pete-rock
    Exactly how long doyou think a typical Home Depot building will last?
    Mud walls from early settlements in the west are still standing. The stone ruins of the Anasazi and Fremont cultures, abandoned by 1300, are still standing. Concrete ruins from Roman times still stand. If properly cared for and preserved, big boxes could last for centuries.
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  14. #14
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One
    [snip] How about an ordinance that forbids Heavy Commercial/industrial class structures anywhere but Heavy Commercial/Industrial property?
    You bring up some good points. Is it possible that codes have been passed up by retailing trends? Even big-box ordinances and special uses havn't addressed these issues.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One
    ....at some point, some genius (probably a City Manager looking for $$$) decided that allowing an "industrial" building, which is what these big box structures really are, should be allowed as commercial uses on COMMERCIAL zoned property, when in reality they should be located in Industrial or at the very least HEAVY COMMERCIAL areas....
    Weren't many downtown commercial buildings built as industrial buildings? (Yes.) They were mixed in with stores and adapted over time from factories to shops. There are still countless examples of retail stores that devote most of their space to manufacturing. I don't think you really want to argue that large format stores should be segregated from other retail. These are the anchors, whether the 130,000 square foot Wal*Mart or the 88,000 square foot Kohl's or the 100,000 square foot Lord & Taylor or the 60,000 square foot Kroger. Anchors are what draw the customers, who then shop the smaller retail. The problem is not how to segregate the large users from the others, but how to incorporate them into the existing retail districts.
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  16. #16
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    These are the anchors, whether the 130,000 square foot Wal*Mart or the 88,000 square foot Kohl's or the 100,000 square foot Lord & Taylor or the 60,000 square foot Kroger.
    Our recently built Wal*Mart Supercenter is a shade under 215,000 sq ft!!!!
    There's a proposal on the table for a 230,000 sq ft Mendards!!! (save big money!)

    These things are beyond any size that retail has had before. 70s era shopping malls barely had 400,000 in GLA.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Anchor Stores...

    Quote Originally posted by boiker
    Our recently built Wal*Mart Supercenter is a shade under 215,000 sq ft!!!!
    There's a proposal on the table for a 230,000 sq ft Mendards!!! (save big money!)

    These things are beyond any size that retail has had before. 70s era shopping malls barely had 400,000 in GLA.
    These buildings are like the 1950's BLOB, in that they grow and grow and have grown every decade into something larger......The "anchor" store keeps increasing in size and has been doing this since the 60's. Just look at the size of malls in the past 40 years.....now being measure in millions (plural) of square feet all over the country......not just the Mall of America's or Edmonton anymore.... Khols is a great example of an anchor type store being torn from its sickly twin (see the movie Basket Case for example) (growing too big) and trying to live on its own, and doing well I would say..I like Khols ...)
    I think our drive to make big $$ in real estate and taxes keeps us looking for that perfect storm of size (coming soon 100 million square foot mega mall?)....
    Skilled Adoxographer

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    I don't think you really want to argue that large format stores should be segregated from other retail.
    While it's best to have regulations span all sizes of commercial uses, the political climate may not allow it. The impact of a big box store like Wal-Mart has more of a stigma attached to it than say a McDonald's or a pharmacy. While it's best to have design regulations apply across the board, it's easier to get people to rally against large retail.
    Every time I look at a Yankees hat I see a swastika tilted just a little off kilter.
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  19. #19
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    They would do better by requiring green roofs on big boxes. At least some habitat would be created. All that structure and parking lot displaces a lot of natural environment, provided its on a greenfield site. Then you also have the urban heat-island effect mitigated with green roofs. How about also making a provision for conversion of the parking lots to tree farms when out of use for a number of years? At least the building eyesore would be hidden.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

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    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Here's a thought: How about banning concrete slabs? They can use concrete for the footings, but no concrete floors/subfloors. Concrete is too cheap to pour and too expensive to demolish, so what they need is flooring that is expensive to install and cheap to demo, like wood.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    Here's a thought: How about banning concrete slabs? They can use concrete for the footings, but no concrete floors/subfloors. Concrete is too cheap to pour and too expensive to demolish, so what they need is flooring that is expensive to install and cheap to demo, like wood.
    If this were the cyburbia corrupt wish game... poof no forests. I did demo bonds for cell towers, but that was only to 6" below grade, meaning we left 15 or more of concrete footing in the ground. One site (in a national forest) had a foundation of 100 cubic yards of concrete!!! I wonder how much concrete goes in a big-box store slab? I'll check.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Wisconsinplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    Weren't many downtown commercial buildings built as industrial buildings? (Yes.) They were mixed in with stores and adapted over time from factories to shops. There are still countless examples of retail stores that devote most of their space to manufacturing. I don't think you really want to argue that large format stores should be segregated from other retail. These are the anchors, whether the 130,000 square foot Wal*Mart or the 88,000 square foot Kohl's or the 100,000 square foot Lord & Taylor or the 60,000 square foot Kroger. Anchors are what draw the customers, who then shop the smaller retail. The problem is not how to segregate the large users from the others, but how to incorporate them into the existing retail districts.
    True, many downtown buildings were constructed as industrial buildings. What you need to remember is they were constructed on multiple stories, not as a sprawling one-story building. A better building type would be to require what some larger cities are now requiring or are looking at requiring, that is requiring big boxes over a certain size to be constructed vertical, rather than horizontal. (I think Portland or Seattle tried this with Walmart.) A multi-storied big box will be much more adaptive to reuse....maybe even as lofts!

  23. #23
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Quote Originally posted by ludes98
    If this were the cyburbia corrupt wish game... poof no forests. I did demo bonds for cell towers, but that was only to 6" below grade, meaning we left 15 or more of concrete footing in the ground. One site (in a national forest) had a foundation of 100 cubic yards of concrete!!! I wonder how much concrete goes in a big-box store slab? I'll check.
    Rough calculations, done in metric because it is easier.

    The minimum would be as follow (in metric) (200 000 sq ft/10.76) = 18587 m2
    18 587 x .3 (1 foot) = 5576 cubic metres of concrete for the floor only.

    Then add in the frost wall (1.5 metres tall x .25(10 inch wall) x perimeter (call it 400 x 500 building) gives you another 675 cubic meters.

    Then add on the footing course = 1 m in width (3 times the width of the wall) X height ( .25 m) x perimeter = 450 cubic metres

    Total concrete = 6701 cubic metres. A cubic meter is a hair smaller than a cubic yard. so call it 6000 cubic yards.


    I have heard it said that the best thing about big boxes is there lack of permanence and ability to reuse the site relatively easily once the structure is removed.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

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