Big buildings, little use

An article in the Washington Post this morning talks about the problems that a number of communities in the Washington, DC area are having with large warehouse retailers. The crux of the problem is that the large buildings are ugly and ill-suited for reuse. Even when another warehouse retailer decides to enter the area, existing sites are often passed over in lieu of building new stores on adjacent property.

Interesting, as well, is what various localities have tried to do to get around the problem. Some are restricting the building of large facilities altogether, others are requiring special approval for large facilities, and yet others are constraining the retailers through requiring smaller visible parking areas (presumedly this will cause them to build garages which are more expensive and visually appealing).

The really radical ideas involve requiring the purveyors to destroy the buildings when they abandon them. Although sounding like an interesting idea on the surface, it could cause some interesting liabilities for companies that are not doing well. If a company is in bankruptcy and the city still requires the destruction of fallow retail, then anyone considering purchasing the assets of such a company would be on the hook for the destruction fees. This might make it even more difficult for investors to get some money out of companies that are on the ropes.

Another interesting question is what will happen to 87 stores that Walmart is expecting to close this year in order to replace them with larger stores. This might just mean more big store waste.