Good Growth: Avoiding the Dark Store Problem

Last Updated:
Fri, 2018-04-20 10:37

These photos by Brian Ulrich from Time Magazine capture the essence of what happens when cities and towns allow rampant development. Big Box stores provide value to society, but when they are not integrated into the community and when they are built in isolation with hundreds of acres of surrounding parking, they turn into albatrosses rather quickly when the anchor tenant leaves. Those acres of parking to serve the Christmas surge turn into a virtual prison of isolation for Big Box stores.

What is a town or city to do with vacant Big Box stores? Occasionally, they can have second lives as bingo halls, homeless shelters, or second hand stores, but almost always they continue dilapidating and fall into disrepair. They become so expensive to tear down that they sit and rot. New retailers will want their stores built larger or to their exact specifications so they have no time to spend redeveloping an existing (and usually) run down shopping mall. How should we zone Big Box stores to ensure that their productive live is longer than 20 years or that of their first occupant?