September 14th, 2011

Sick kids

One woke up with croup. The other has been running a fever for a couple days and developed the runs in the afternoon. Also, if you file estimateds, quarterlies are due tomorrow. . .

Fun day. At least they have both been able to nap. That should help. I'm _so_ happy we have B.

Big Box Stores

This caught my eye:

The initial amusement was because people seemed so happy that LexisNexis was willing to stay in the suburbs rather than move downtown. But here, at the bottom of the page:

", an online retailer, has acquired the former home of Syms and SunTV to begin expansion efforts for the company. The company will extensively renovate the 110,000-square-foot building at 21930 Miles Rd. The property, a former “big box” retail destination, will be converted into a distribution / fulfillment center for the company."

OrangeOnions seems to be an online discount store -- I had not previously heard of them. There is this wonderful symmetry, that in an era where people are reluctant to drive to buy stuff, the stuff will instead be driven _to_ them, from at least one of the same locations. Warehouse. Store. Same diff, in the end.

I thought, I wonder if I can find more examples of online retailers buying empty, exurban big box stores and using them as fulfillment centers? I stumbled across an interview with the author of _Big Box Reuse_, which was not precisely to the point. Her research was done before the massive availability of big boxes, when empty big boxes were a result of a Bigger Box being opened up nearby with the same retailer in it. There were, as a result, a bunch of encumberances put on the older property to make sure it didn't compete with the new property.

This is also not to the point (that is, not about online retail moving into exurban bk'd big box locations), but fit nicely into one of my major themes (densification):

I find it a little weird that a trade publication (Shopping Centers Today) is putting out its content as facebook Notes, but I'll just say, "Thank you, SCT!" and enjoy reading it. (It was written before the Borders BK.)

ETA: Stumbled across this while trying to track down the grocery anchor for Kelsey Creek (haven't succeeded yet):

Add to the list of things to do with a big box store: a climbing gym.

buy online, pick up in person

I've always had mixed feelings about this as an idea. As a transition, it makes perfect sense. For groceries, it'll probably _always_ make sense. But the idea that a primarily online operation might want to maintain a widespread network of pickup locations? Seems a little iffy. And promising that you can do same-day pickup requires that you _really_ know what you have and where you have it, which is surprisingly incompatible with letting regular customers browse your shelves in person.

"The biggest of these initiatives is Walmart’s Pick Up Today, which launched in March and is now operating at some 3,600 stores. Along with Walmart’s Site to Store program, in which shoppers get free shipping by going to the store to pick up items ordered from, Pick Up Today is popular with shoppers, says spokesman Ravi Jariwala. “These multichannel transactions where customers purchase online and then pick up in the store now account for more than 50 percent of our sales at,” he said. “We expect this to continue to increase in the future. Shopping behavior is definitely evolving.”"

I am reasonably certain (without having the link in hand) that I just read over on GlobeSt that Walmart's ratio of online to inperson sales was one of the worst out there, thus making the 50% of our sales at their online storefront less impressive than it might otherwise appear.

I've used in-person pickup, so it's not that I think this is completely unreasonable. But I think it's fundamentally a transitional/marginal strategy.

private/public partnership between Street-Works and Quincy, MA; Kelsey Creek

I stumbled across this after seeing a reference in a recent SCT article about government incentives to redevelop aging retail centers.

The Quincy case is interesting for a lot of reasons, not least of which is this:

"“None of this space is being built ‘spec,’ which would not work with our economic model,” says Heapes." Heapes goes on to say anchors could have been leased twice over and they've expanded the residential component because all the Boston area residential developers want in on it.

When we were headed down to the Cape for our end-of-summer week, we stopped briefly in the parking lot of the South Shore Mall, because we _thought_ the kids needed to use a bathroom, altho it turned out they did not (or at least balked at getting out of the van when the time arrived). I have not seen a mall _that_ busy in a very long time. Across one of the arterials, an old Tara hotel was being taken down (keep meaning to find out what is going up). Granted, South Shore Mall is suburban Quincy, but still.

ETA: Kelsey Creek Shopping Center is mentioned in the FB Note/SCT article above. Work has begun, according to this coverage from June:

SCT said this:

"In Bellevue, Wash., developer Franklin-West LLC was granted a reduction in impact fees of up to $454,580 to encourage the firm to redevelop its Kelsey Creek Shopping Center, where a 106,000-square-foot former Kmart has sat vacant for nearly 10 years."

But the Times said this:

"redevelopment of the 16-acre site was made difficult because of city guidelines that required builders adding new commercial space to open, or "daylight," the covered stream that runs through a concrete culvert under the property." City removed the requirement.

Readers unfamiliar with the activism associated with Thornton Creek (different stream, different shopping center) might wonder why I find this a little stunning, however I would point out that 43B in Massachusetts does a fair amount to make it easier for a developer to, er, develop a parcel or parcels as-of-right, it does absolutely nothing to modify the MEPA process.

Development is very, very local, and a trap for the unwary.

ETAYA: I can't tell how things are progressing, beyond a remark at George's Wine Shoppe's page where it says parking purgatory is over and an earlier picture at a newspaper website of the mounds of dirt in the parking lot which is presumably what the wine shoppe was referring to. Anyone know?

Looks like the "unnamed" fitness center is an LA Fitness, but I have no info on the grocery still.

Oh, and KOMO coverage of the LA Fitness announcement:

complaining about _Waiting on a Train_

If you choose to read this (and at 40% of the way through, I'll give it a qualified recommendation, high on readability, decent on communicating accurate information, excellent in terms of supplying ideas of what to research further), skip the introduction. It stopped me continuing. For months. If you are a Kunstler fan, you might like the introduction.

In any event, the chapter titled "Union Station, Washington, D.C. when railroads were bad to the bone" starts with the author discussing an elderly black man he met the day before on the train with historian John Hankey. This presents an opportunity to discuss segregation and railroads, and believe me when I say, this is a discussion worth having.

Unfortunately, here's what _Waiting_ comes up with:

Washington DC is where segregation started. The man the author met last rode a train in 1952, when it was not possible for a white man (the author) and a black man to sit next to each other or even in the same car. The author (months later) reads a copy of Virginia's "Jim Crow" statute (his term). The author adds, "If a person wouldn't state his [sic] race, the conductor was "the sole and final judge of a passenger's race." After Brown v. Board of Education, the ICC ruled segregation in transportation illegal, but many railroads, particularly those in the Deep South, ignored the ruling."

This is a _perfect_ example of how telling another part of the story tilts one's perspectives on railroads and race: Brown v. Board of Education revisited Plessy v. Ferguson's "separate but equal". Every time I've heard the Brown v. Board of Education story told, this is mentioned, but Plessy v. Ferguson was news to my husband, so clearly my reality is a little odd. What I _never_ heard until I started reading books about railroads was that Plessy v. Ferguson was a case that railroads made sure happened because the railroads _did not want to enforce segregation_ -- it was expensive and inefficient for them. That the courts came to "separate but equal" was not expected and was a setback in many ways.

I've blogged about this before, because I was so stunned. I believe this is a part of our history that we need to process again in our current era, for several reasons.

(1) Small l libertarian arguments that businesses will do what is in their economic interest and that won't include being racist jackasses need to digest this part of our history. They need to recognize that they've fought this battle once before and lost. Hard.

(2) Believers in states rights (who may overlap with category (1) in part) need to recognize that support for states rights has led to persistent regional injustice recently enough to have had repercussions in the lives of many people alive today. If you're sitting around looking at statistics that show black families at a particular income level having way less net worth than white families at a particular income level, Plessy v. Ferguson provides a really compelling explanation.

(3) Anyone trying to understand why railroads are so fucking defensive about politics needs to process this (along with an unending number of other examples) so they can get a sense of why railroad management culture is fully prepared to screw their own selves completely if they think they can prevent any element of any jurisdiction from having an excuse to go after them.


(4) Anyone who thinks business or the citizenry in general would welcome regulation because We're Just Trying to Make Things Better should probably pause for at least a millisecond to contemplate the things that have been done Trying to Make Things Better, if only to understand why there might be some cynicism out there on the subject.

I am _not_ asking for James McCommons to get into all this. However, I do feel that anyone who talks about trains and Brown v. Board of Education without touching Plessy v. Ferguson is asking for whining from the peanut gallery. And here it is.

TRMS covering Ackerman's scoop on crappy training materials at Quantico

Particularly weird that Gawthrop has a significant birther connection.

TRMS = The Rachel Maddow Show, Ackerman is the author of the piece at the wired link above. Short form: bad training materials at FBI for counterterrorism classes say Islam is inherently long-list-of-very-negative-things. Likely outcome of training people with bad materials is ... bad behavior on the part of the trainees.

It's hard to know what to say without triggering Godwin's Law somehow.