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Thread: Wal-Mart spiffs up in bid to broaden appeal

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Wal-Mart spiffs up in bid to broaden appeal

    Big boxes taking a turn for the better? As has been beaten to a pulp on this forum is the sterility of the big box and how they sprawl out into a sea of parking with little to no concern for the built environment or design. However, this article only deals with improvements to the interior; attempting to make shopping at Wal-Mart something more than perusing a warehouse for necessities, and taking back some market share from Target at the same time. Now only if something could be done to the exterior and the view from the street.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16992313/?GT1=9033

    The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailing giant is in the midst of an ambitious plan to spiff up a whopping 1,800 stores over an 18-month period. The project, which is scheduled to be completed by October, is in addition to another 322 full store remodels — slightly more than the typical 300 — that the company completed last year

    “This is not about moving Wal-Mart to go more upscale,” spokeswoman Melissa O’Brien said of the company’s broader strategy. “It’s about where Wal-Mart’s going to be a better store of the community for each community we serve.”
    However,
    ... the company is right to undertake an ambitious remodel effort, noting that many of the stores appear rundown in comparison to competitors such as Target. Still, he expects it to be some time before the remodels pay off.
    @GigCityPlanner

  2. #2
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    They could start with the novel concept of parking lot landscaping, or at least maintaining it where it exists

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    The term "put some lipstick on this pig" comes immediatley to my mind

  4. #4
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    Wal-Mart built an "urban" store that is "sensitive to the neighborhood" here. They went on and on in the press about the hardwood floors and wide selection of gourmet cheeses. Well, it does have hardwood floors but not everywhere. They're only in very small areas like the jewelry counter. The gourmet cheese selection is a refrigerated kiosk made of ugly molded plastic with wheels on the bottom placed awkwardly near the cash registers. It's obviously not a permanent fixture.

    The other thing about the store is that they said it was going to be part of a multi-story mixed use complex. Well, that's sort of true. What they did was build the standard big box store with lots of surface parking and then the developer built another shopping center completely on stilts above the Wal-Mart. The two structures are not integrated together, you just have one built above the other. It does save some space in that you don't have a big box Wal-Mart on one side of the street and then a shopping center with Ross, Office Depot, etc on the other side of the street but in general, it is the same old thing.

    The mixed use component is some apartments and townhomes built in the area at the same time as the shopping center but once again, there is no real integration of the two uses, they just happen to be located in close quarters to each other.

    So, lipstick on a pig is a pretty good description of what you end up with.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Quote Originally posted by AubieTurtle View post
    Wal-Mart built an "urban" store that is "sensitive to the neighborhood" here.
    I can't believe that whole complex was built without any sort of improvements to Howell Mill.
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

  6. #6
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    Big Boxes Quantity trumps Quality

    Everything above - my sentiments, as well. Little to add, except:

    You can build a better functioning and better looking shopping environment than most communities obtain through the conventional big box development. It is interesting to note a few communities require better design, sometimes limited size, and more "urban style" development for shopping areas. Some outright prohibit the big boxes, and of course, there are reasons beyond design and function that come into play (labor issues, impacts to the local economy, etc.). Some communities, on the other hand, give the boxes free reign. I imagine most are somewhere in the middle, as noted above by Fat Cat, they try to put lipstick on the pig, or parsley around...well we all get the picture.

    Like about everything else in planning and the public policy arena, the community gets what it demands; the tools and examples are definetly out there to produce better results, but until the people demand that and their elected officials agree to make changes to their Codes and Plans that result in something better, we get more or less the same old stuff.

    I know from my experience, if a retailer or some other business wants bad enough to establish itself in your market, the local jurisdiction wants to allow that business, and a better design is dictated by the local jurisdiction, 9 or more times out of 10, that developer is going to jump through all sorts of hoops to get an approval. That being said, it is much better to have design and other sought-after requirements, or at least, objectives, in place, as opposed to arbitrarily trying to wrest various design compromises out of the retailer (because you don't have sufficient basis to ask for what you want, it's out of their norm, so they will either fight it and prevail, or go away, at least until the political climate is more advantageous).

    Last thought: without sufficient basis in requirement, it's been like pulling teeth to get any aspect of a big box development to incorporate any element or characteristic of a pedestrian-friendly development.

    Ciao/The Dr.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Bubba View post
    Off-topic:


    I can't believe that whole complex was built without any sort of improvements to Howell Mill.
    I vaguely remember hearing something about Howell Mill being a state road and that the DOT was having a hard time getting a wide enough right of way to do their normal arterial treatment so nothing ended up getting built. It really would be sad if some of the old businesses along there had to torn down in order to build a road with enough capacity to service the new Wal-Mart. One positive thing I can say about it is that it is better than the abandoned hotel that was sitting rotting on the site for years.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by AubieTurtle View post
    I vaguely remember hearing something about Howell Mill being a state road and that the DOT was having a hard time getting a wide enough right of way to do their normal arterial treatment so nothing ended up getting built. It really would be sad if some of the old businesses along there had to torn down in order to build a road with enough capacity to service the new Wal-Mart. One positive thing I can say about it is that it is better than the abandoned hotel that was sitting rotting on the site for years.
    I kept waiting for that motel to collapse over onto I-75...

    I'm fairly certain that Howell Mill isn't on the state system, but that doesn't necessarily mean that any improvements to it wouldn't be a GDOT project (especially with the proximity of the interstate). Just out of curiosity, I checked the GDOT construction work program for Fulton County, and there's absolutely nothing programmed for Howell Mill.
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

  9. #9
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    I couldn't find anything that states Howell Mill has state or federal designation either. It very well may have been Northside Drive (GA9/US41) that I read about or it could have been something to do with a problem between the city and the county over Howell Mill. I don't know how far off the interstate that funds can be used for intersection and road upgrades. Howell Mill is already seeing a lot of new development so whoever is responsible for it needs to gather up the required right of way if they want to expand the road before thousands of unmovable dwelling units end up pinning it in.

    I did come across an interesting site on Georgia highways and their numbering: http://barusa.tripod.com/garoads/garoads.htm

    Ok, back to Wal-Mart. It really is amazing how much traffic one of those places generates and how badly their parking lots always seem to be designed. I don't quite understand why that is because with as many stores as they've built, you would think they would learn a lesson or two.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

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