Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wal-Mart: An economic cancer on our cities -

Must article in Salon - click title for link. Joe Minicozzi is mentioned throughout the article. For a time, ten or so years ago, he was a planner working for the City of West Palm Beach. He is the father of the many traffic calming devices you find on the streets of our neighboring, larger city. He is now is Ashville, North Carolina and he offers a thorough explanation of the importance of traditional downtown redevelopment versus "sprawl" development - like Walmarts and acres of single family homes on large lots, serviced primarily by the automobile. It turns out that the return in investment of jobs and tax revenue is hands down better in downtowns as it is in Sprawl-ville. Read on.
To explain, Minicozzi offered me his classic urban accounting smackdown, using two competing properties: On the one side is a downtown building his firm rescued—a six-story steel-framed 1923 classic once owned by JCPenney and converted into shops, offices, and condos. On the other side is a Walmart on the edge of town. The old Penney’s building sits on less than a quarter of an acre, while the Walmart and its parking lots occupy thirty-four acres. Adding up the property and sales tax paid on each piece of land, Minicozzi found that the Walmart contributed only $50,800 to the city in retail and property taxes for each acre it used, but the JCPenney building contributed a whopping $330,000 per acre in property tax alone. In other words, the city got more than seven times the return for every acre on downtown investments than it did when it broke new ground out on the city limits.
When Minicozzi looked at job density, the difference was even more vivid: the small businesses that occupied the old Penney’s building employed fourteen people, which doesn’t seem like many until you realize that this is actually seventy-four jobs per acre, compared with the fewer than six jobs per acre created on a sprawling Walmart site. (This is particularly dire given that on top of reducing jobs density in its host cities, Walmart depresses average wages as well.)