Blog Archives

Viewpoint: Breaking Down the Big Box

[Source: Planetizen] — Josh Stephens feels driven to bring attention to last year’s “Big Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses” by Stacey Mitchell.  The book argues that mega-retailers have not only drained the American economy of much of its entrepreneurial spirit, but also have contributed to the degradation of the social fabric, intellectual life, and built environment of cities and towns across the United States.  [Note: To read the full commentary, click here.]

No political party discussing American West population explosion

[Source: Froma Harrop, Houston Chronicle and reprinted in the Arizona Republic] — There’s a burning concern in the American West — almost an obsession — that Democrats did not touch in their convention here.  Nor will Republicans in St. Paul.  It is the U.S. population explosion.  The West is feeling the brunt of it, as flowing lava of housing developments and big-box crudscapes claim its cherished open spaces — and increasingly scarce water supplies.  The U.S. Census Bureau now expects America’s population to top 400 million by 2039, far earlier than previously forecast.  The 300-million mark was hit only two years ago, so if this prediction is correct, the headcount will have soared by 100 million people in 33 short years.

America’s fastest-growing region has been and will continue to be the Intermountain West.  Its megalopolises — centered on Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City — are set to add 13 million people by 2040, according to a Brookings Institution study.  This would be a doubling of their population.  Hyper-growth still brings out happy talk in some circles.  The Brookings report looks at the population forecasts for the urban corridor on the eastern face of the Rockies, spreading from Colorado into Wyoming, and enthuses, “Such projections point to a huge opportunity for the Front Range to improve on the current level of prosperity.”  There are challenges, it says, but they can be met — and you can almost hear local hearts breaking — by new roads, bigger airports, more office parks.

And where oh where are they going to find water?  Every county in Colorado was declared a federal drought disaster area in 2002, when the population stood at 4.5 million.  It is expected to approach 8 million by 2035.  As former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm notes, the region is so dry that you can still see the wagon wheel trails laid down in the 1840s.  “This is an area that plans to add 13 million people?” Lamm said to me.  “Crazy.”  [Note: To read the full opinion piece, click here.]

Nation, Phoenix see sharp rise in shopping center vacancies

[Source: Stacy Mitchell, Hometown Advantage News] — The number of shuttered box stores and empty strip malls has expanded dramatically over the last six months, according to data compiled by commercial real estate brokers and investment advisors.  And the situation is likely to get much worse.  Chain retailers have announced plans to close more than 6,500 outlets by year’s end, even as shopping center construction continues at a furious pace.  Developers are on track to bring an estimated 137 million square feet of new retail space online this year.  That’s more than the average annual growth during the first half of the decade.

“Alarming” is how one commercial brokerage described the unabated pace of shopping center construction.  It is an indication of the degree to which the forces driving retail expansion have become untethered from actual consumer demand.  Communities that have not taken steps to limit retail sprawl through their land use policies are at risk of seeing growing numbers of buildings become derelict.  Already, vacancy rates at strip malls have reached a twelve-year high, according to the research firm Reis.  For the first time since the firm started gathering data in 1980, the total amount of occupied retail space has begun to decline in absolute terms…

In regions that have experienced a major housing boom and bust, such as Phoenix and Florida, the amount of ghost retail has risen sharply and includes stores that were built in advance of new outer-ring subdivisions but never occupied.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]