New Low Reached! Cleveland Suburbs Now Poaching from Themselves

We often speak about sprawl at Rust Wire, and how it’s eating the region inside out like a tapeworm made of pavement and cheap building materials.

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Below, a prime example follows.

The place is Strongsville, a made-for-automobile city that was once trees and farmland. Now it is a series of box lots and tall, car dealership-like streetlights dotting the main drags. There, a Giant Eagle sits at a place called Westfield South Park. The store is newer, yet the franchise wants to close it. Instead, they “want to clear 13.5 acres that are now occupied by Strongsville Golf, Honey Hut Ice Cream and a residence and construct a “signature store” [down the street] that would be about 25,000 square feet larger than the current one.” Yes, the store will be huge, block-out-the-sun big: 92,600 sq. ft.

Drawings for the mega Giant Eagle in Strongsville

Urban design-wise, the potential development includes a variety of general abominations, including a Get Go gas station, an added stop light on Pearl Rd., as well as “a larger-than-required buffer around the property to protect adjacent residents”. Inside, the store will have cooked foodstuffs, complete with “a hot foods bar, a much larger salad bar, and a 35-40-seat WiFi cafe.”

Quite a development, eh? Well, count the Strongsville’s Economic Development Director as stoked. He told the Strongsville Patch: “I think it is exciting.”

Looks like that guy didn’t see the recent NY Times article warning the world’s Strongsvilles not to double down on the mistakes of the last decade:

Drive through any number of outer-ring suburbs in America, and you’ll see boarded-up and vacant strip malls, surrounded by vast seas of empty parking spaces. These forlorn monuments to the real estate crash are not going to come back to life, even when the economy recovers…

For too long, we over-invested in the wrong places. Those retail centers and subdivisions will never be worth what they cost to build. We have to stop throwing good money after bad.

Lets walk through the problems with this project, shall we?

First, ever-decreasing local and county tax revenues are being used to build something unneeded. Look at the map. They want move a stone’s throw away. Of course this will be a mega store (to adopt their sad-sack corporate lingo), but there already is a “mega” on Rt 303 down south.

Hell, from the map Giant Eagle has turned the area into a food swamp. Not only is it unnecessary, but costly, as turning greenfield into infrastructure-supported property is not cheap. (And this says nothing about negative externalities of turning yet another piece of permeable surface into non-permeable pavement. This problem ends up in the form of crap [literally] that is going into my beach. Cool.)

Second is the effect on property value at the soon-to-be vacant Giant Eagle as well as the property value of homes in what was a predominant residential area. As for the former, Strongsville ED says that side of town is “very appealing to retailers” and that “sometimes a vacancy can create an opportunity”. One problem, there is a hell of a lot big-box and 70’s-strip vacancy crawling into these suburban and exurban areas. You’re getting a case, then, of supply exceeding demand, with cheap rent places filling in.

As for the homes near the new moon spot, check out some real metrics from a real study on big box retail near homes. It adds value because of convenience, right? Not so. And there is plenty more where this came from.

Our hypothesis that house value is influenced by a combination of perceived positive and negative externalities associated with the proximity to a big-box retailer is empirically supported. A U-shape relation exists where house price raises in value as distance from a big box store increases, reaches a maximum, and then dissipates as distance increases from the development. These effects suggest that perceived negative externalities (aesthetics, noise, traffic, pollution, and lighting) override perceived positive externalities (convenience to shopping area, travel cost, and access to specialty shops) for houses within a certain proximity to the big-box stores

So: you’ve got money wasted, real estate value lost, but what about local economics? 100 new jobs will be supposedly added. And what will be subtracted? Local businesses, which means powerful multipliers. Specifically, you got the businesses that are literally being swallowed by a national chain, as well as the cafe at the grocery store that’ll be eating away the market share of local restaurants and coffee shops. Again, some real data:

Two recent studies–one in Austin, Texas, the other in Maine–compared locally owned businesses with nationally owned stores as far as their impact on their local economies. They reached very similar conclusions: $100.00 spent at a national retailer yielded a return of about $15.00 to the local economy. However when that same $100.00 is spent with a local retailer it returns about $45.00 or 3 times as much income to the local economy. When further defined, these returns from the national chain store were usually in the form of lower-level service job wages.

Lastly, let us not forget about the morale of the citizens. I will defer here to two residents who are commenting on the Patch article about the planned giant Giant Eagle.

What a HORRIBLE idea. Why don’t we just pave over ALL of Strongsville? Do we really need another big box store? What will happen to the old building? I cannot understand the logic of this, how wasteful and disgusting. The “old” store is not even that old? Our city is already marred by the endless stream of vacant strip malls why should we pave over the little bit of green space remaining?

Wow I cannot wait to trade the beautiful green grass and deer that roam the fields for a 30 foot larger than life buffer!!!! I guess what is another empty building in this community it seem to be the trend. We build on every green parcel as possible, I guess that is called “progress”.

Hell, perhaps we should encourage this stuff. Perhaps more folks will then be wise to return to the heart of our region — the city.

The cannibals are cannibalizing themselves. When is greater Cleveland going to stop this madness?

–Richey Piiparinen

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