On Walmart

Posted by MJ

Although the renderings for the proposed Wal-mart show a design better than the blank box the current one has, one is left to wonder why we continue to not push for something better? We get a tower "element" and a small courtyard between the buildings but who wants to hang out between two big-boxes? Employees on smoke breaks I suppose.

As far back as 2006, Wal-mart has been striving to (or forced to) conform with the localities it is building in. Sometimes it is the planning/zoning that gets it there but more often than not it is the planning/zoning that stalls it there. Wal-mart is a powerful force (for good and bad) and will still build where it sees the potential for growth. A locality might as well strive for the best, not just from Wal-mart but from any development creating the fabric we live in. Do we want an (asphalt) hole laden sheet or a thick comforter to spend our time in?

Here are two Wal-mart designs:

First we have one proposed for Austin Tx. If we can get past the attached ramp (not needed in the town) we can note a modern design. After seeing Wal-marts attached to malls in Canada, what would be so hard placing something like this at the corner of Shimmer and S. Transit. One entrance at the corner for pedestrians, bicycles, bus riders, etc and the other at the other end of the Shimmer Dr facade for automobile traffic parked at the pack. Plus along Transit the small courtyard would make sense.

Here we have design two from DC. Time to get even dreamier. Imagine this on the WNYCA/F&M block downtown. A pedestrian entrance for the Walmart plus other shops facing Main St. The new city municipal parking ramp integrated into the structure. The ability of lower income brackets (without transportation) to easily walk adding life to Main St. Harrison Pl would have additional across the street parking and a continuous street frontage making it feel connected to Main St. Get really crazy and incorporate residential along Locust and in the F&M with attached covered parking.

They are big dreams but without shooting for the stars we are unlikely to reach the moon, much less leave the ground. At a minimum, the open store frontage could of been incorporated into the town design thus conforming with some of the Transit North Overlay District iinitiatives.

Odds are what is done is done pertaining to this project. Another 20-30yr decision that holds us back from making Lockport somewhere memorable to live.
"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic"


Anonymous said...

Are you serious? When did we have the leverage to be picky? Lets delay the project another 5 years to make the place to your liking.

MJ said...

1)The time to do this was 5 years ago. It is hindsight in this project but should be foresight moving forward. Hence the discussion.

2) You always have the leverage to be picky. The proper place to do it is within zoning and planning codes to make sure it is followed by everyone. The more visual the code the easier projects flow. The secondary place is during negotiations for variances.

Why should we play the insecure pushover while wondering why the Wal-marts/Rite-Aids/etc look better and integrate better in other areas of our region/country?

Investment follows investment. Let one entity build crap and others following will want to limit their investment to same level to compete/protect their investment. Require that everyone build to a higher standard and entities will feel more comfortable in their investment knowing where the bar and rules are set(and enforced).

And in the big scheme of things, siting is more important than the build materials. Instead of making rules for the lowest use of the land how about charting a coarse to maximizing overall land value?

3) What's so "picky" about asking Wal-mart to do what they have done elsewhere? Or are we to assume we are just "not good enough" for someone else's best effort?

Anonymous said...

I agree with you MJ. We could have and should have had better. The town politicians have down a crappy job with this mess from the beginning. The fact that Walmart has stuck through this for this long says they want to be hear bad. The town settled for something marginally better then what we have because they were so afraid that Walmart would back out. This community will never attract better development because of this mentality.

Rocketboy said...

Just imagine how much more Walmart would have been open to this if we didn't have a small handful of bankrolled people fighting them ever step of the way.

The Phantom said...

Nobody cared when Tops dropped a gas station in the middle of their parking lot. Nobody cared how the Taco Bell looked (actually a nice addition in my opinion, looks nice and beats the run down LJS)
why only care about Walmart??? Most new Walmarts I have seen recently (Albion, Brockport etc. are asthetically pleasing and fit nice into the area, what makes you think it will be any different here??

Give it a chance already.

MJ said...

I'm just saying it could have been better than Brockport's/Hamburg's Etc. They are nicer than the old style Walmarts for sure. But they are now the new basic "standard". Prettier versions of a big auto-centric box stuck at the back of a soon to be pot-holed oil-stained massive parking lot with some struggling dawrf trees. Why not attempt to tie it into something bigger?

Taco Bell obviously looks better than the old LJS. I guess the overlay district got us 3' of stone around the base. But the building still looks like a Taco Bell. I beilieve a building should not tell you what it is without a sign. It should be easily adaptable to future uses from a look standpoint. I can't stand going into places and thinking the whole time I am standing in an old outdated Wendy's/Pizza Hut/etc. But all-in-all it is a decent building considering what the code can give us (Burger King).

These projects form where we live. For all the Walmart haters there seem to be, I'm surprised so many are satisfied with a commercial district that looks like it was designed by Walmart.

Anonymous said...

If i'm a Taco Bell, I want it to be Taco Bell. I dont want a town telling business owners to build their property so it can be adapted into something later that isnt their business.. and all on their dime.

MJ said...

Maybe I wasn't clear. I'm not suggesting they add a casket elevator "just in case". Any space is adaptable. I'm talking about the exterior, especially gimmicky ones. I did mention above Taco Bell is a decent building form outside and the BK would have been a better example. But for arguments sake:

If Pizza hut did not have the Red Hut roof on top would it make it any less of a Pizza Hut? If LJS was not designed too look like a cheap fishing wharf on the outside would it have ruined the dining experience? If the outside of the Taco Bell did not look like a fau-adobe would the 7-layer Burito taste any less?

An auto designer once said that it costs just as much to bend ugly/bland sheetmetal as it does great looking sheetmetal. Same can be said for the form of a building.

I doubt you'd would like if someone built a huge ice cream cone shaped house next to your's to live in. Why should we allow tacky business architecture? Create a higer level of design and siting and make everyone follow it to be fair. We would win in the long run with higher property values and more vested interest.

The Phantom said...

Given the state of today's economy, should we be overly restrictive on ANY company or business that wants to open up shop here??

I for one am thankful that there are still places to shop, eat, entertain here. Take a drive around Detroit sometime and see all the abandoned neighborhoods, not just houses, entire housing developments that are there.

And if I want to paint my house Barney Purple and Big Bird Yellow, why should government have anything to say about it? It's MY house!!

LoneWolf said...

Greetings all ~

I have been reading WITH GREAT INTEREST.. on this Wa-Mart issue ..

Granted we ALL are aware there are people for and againt a super Wal-Mart.. and that is thier right to say as such ..

But my curiosity is a little "peaked" is to why they want the Lockport Mall Area specfically(granted now its a "derlict" spot but it was booming at one point) ..

Why not just expand what they have or am I missing something in the land issue ???

I mean really .. all(as far as I have seen being in a Super Wal-Mart ) that a super Wal- Mart that a normal one doesn't, is a produce section, and a few other "amentites"(larger other departments ) can they not expand what they have rather than build another structure ??

Mind you, I'm not for or againt having a Super Wal-Mart... but im just curious as to WAHY they can just exapand what they have ,... rather then leave another empty building on Transit road ?

LoneWolf said...

Reagrding the pics MJ POsted~

If there was a way to "consolidate" both designs that would look good .. in my opinion ..

Anonymous said...

Lonewolf...under the current deal that Benderson has (they own the current Walmart property) they cannot expand to include any sort of grocery department because they own the Tops property next door as well...thus not being able to be direct competion. Thank Tops for that garbage and those who were selfish idiots with the Smart Growth group from making a Walmart expansion not possible on the current property. I have a funny feeling Smart Growth was in cahoots with Tops/Benderson because their monopoly in Lockport is so threatened. We as Lockport residents deserve to have (cheaper)options and it has taken long enough to get the new and improved Walmart in town. Shame on you to whoever has supported Smart Growth or anyone else trying to stop the Super Walmart from being here!

MJ said...

The economy is just an excuse to build as cheap as possible. Is the economy ever good enough? We should be worth more than that and demand it. It must be applied uniformally through code.

I also did not say anything about paint colors. Paint is easy to change. The location and facades of a 200,000 sgft building are not.

LoneWolf said...

Sorry for the much delayed response have had some personal issues happeing...

To Debi~
I was NOT aware that Benderson owns the land wher Wal Mart now sits.. as well as the property that TOPS sits on .. which explains alot .. Pardon my french .. Benderson can "kiss my A$$"

No wonder Wal Mart wants the Lockport Mall site .


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