The Walmart Walk. LENNAR Repositions thinking.

WPCNR NEWS & COMMENT–THE MIDYEAR REVIEW. By John F. Bailey. July 26, 2018 UPDATED 7/31 With News of WP Pavilion new design of their buildings raising questions:

Walmart told City Hall Tuesday they were not staying in White Plains and would close  August 10.

This is not good. The reasons that Walmart said publicly in previous published reports  originally were financial performance in the Main Street location and the desire to expand its footprint and the need for outdoor parking.

On Thursday afternoon, Phillip Keene, Walmart Corporate Spokesman issued WPCNR this statement when asked if any issues with the landlord prompted their departure after 12 years, and whether the company’s was up. Here is that statement:

“We have no unresolved issues with the landlord of the site.
 
Our lease expires in a few years. As we’ve stated, this tough decision was based on financial performance among other factors.
 
While we are always looking for ways to better serve our customers, we are not pursuing or planning a relocation of this store.”
 
Phillip Keene
Walmart Spokesperson
There has been no indication from the county or its many business organizations that they are racing to give Walmart a site. Yonkers springs to mind what with big time gambling coming to Empire City. If there is any property nearby that would be good, maybe.

Mayor Roach doesn’t seem to think there’s a problem filling the Walmart vacancy – if the building measures up to a top notch retailer’s qualifications.

The Mayor said:

 Nationwide the retail landscape is shifting rapidly and dramatically.  Fortunately, we have worked hard to reposition the city by bringing more residential and corporate presence into the downtown.  The building is a 50 year old former Sears store in the heart of downtown.  Anyone familiar with the real estate market in White Plains will realize that there will be no shortage of proposals for the site, which will better fit the demand in the downtown. 

I received the call from Walmart at 9:15 this (Tuesday) morning advising of their decision.  My immediate concern is for the workers who are losing their jobs.  

We have a very low unemployment rate in White Plains but this may also be an opportunity for those who wish to change their career path.  I contacted our Education Training Center, which is an innovative program that trains people for jobs where there is a shortage of qualified people, for example health care, culinary, and hospitality to name a few.  The ETC is willing to work with Walmart;  I conveyed this information to Walmart and we look forward to working with them to make this a reality. 

So ended the Mayor’s statement. But here’s the foreshadowing indicated by Walmart’s forthright statement.

However—White Plains is in a state of perpetual change.

If retail is in such flux, as the Mayor says, how can the many mixed use projects (the city has approved) attract the number of retailers/restaurants/services that will make the millennials being sought happy in the new apartments that are now in the way too distant future.

(Commentator’s Note: One week after Walmart walked out of White Plains, Lennar, developers of the White Plains Pavilion rebuild, announced to the Common Council, they could not get financing for the level retail they had envision for the project. Well, if Lennar, the number 2 home builder in the country can’t get retail or financiers to bite. Every project the city has right now is in big trouble. Every one includes retail to drive revenues for the city. The concept appears shattered.)

As Jim Benerofe has long said on the White Plains Week program, retail has been overbuilt in this country.

The sagging results in this county since the “recovery” began four years ago, show that. How long have we been in the money anyway?

Walmart departing is the judgment of a retailer who has been in that location 12 years through a bad recession. And now they move out? How bad are their financials there?

Now there is a big time retail drought for this new White Plains fiscal year right there.

Hopefully Sears will not depart the Galleria. Frankly I do not see how Sears survives on the sparse traffic that store generates in The Galleria. But they must know what they are doing.

But the more you watch corporate decisions, the more it seems that  they react too late to trends.  They keep wishing for the past. T

The more you watch city planners everywhere the more you get the feeling that they lack vision today and spot zone their cities. They  Suggest cookie cutter development after cookie cutter development. Like the proliferation of shopping malls in the 1960s and 70s. Like corporate parks along Westchester Avenue which have died.

In White Plains we are watching Metro North redo the train station with interior cosmetics, supposedly to give millennials our target lure amenities as part of their commute.

Metro North is not thinking big, and White Plains has not the spine to tell  them they have to think big. That train station could be something like the Union Station in Washington, D.C., the Richmond Station in Richmond Virginia or even Grand Central with all it’s restaurants.

The present station in White Plains is simply a glamorized elevated subway stop.

It needs something in it that generates revenue for the city—a hotel a convention center—maybe they cannot build it on the geography there, but no one has said that. It is a project conceived in the dark despite the city propaganda about it. Wi-fi in a railroad station is no reason to go to someplace to live.

The city has not yet revealed any responses for its request for proposals for its city owned lots on the east side of the train station, either. Probably more apartments filled with restaurants and open space.

But if you were a retailer would you commit and lease to go in there before the apartments were filled up? I don’t think so. That’s why the delay in this whole downtown transit district with its various makeovers could be years in the making, at least 10 years and the present snail’s pace on site plans and construction.

If Walmart walks, why would anyone come in to take that space?

Of course it would make a great place for a new city hall that property if the city bought it and the old City Hall could be turned into another luxury building with retail on the bottom. What vision.

You, too can be a planner.

Demographics, planners, please!

 

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