New Site Plan – The Boulevards At Blacksburg Will Consist Of A Sub Shack and Tatoo Parlor …

Okay, so the title of the post is a bit misleading but you kept reading, right?  I hope so.  I received the following comment from my post yesterday about the web site from a reader named Paul who makes a good point.  I love that this is getting people in this Town talking, but I'm disturbed by some of the comments that have come out of the arguments (not here on this blog, but in other forums around Town).  Nevertheless, I think this breeds some really good discussion, and in my reply to Paul I realized I was just writing another post.  So I've continued it below …

Paul says – "I’ve been following this development since it was proposed last year
and I was very excited about it until the latest plan showed a big-box
store behind Kroger. Fairmount has not released the name of the
big-box, but I can only presume it’s a Walmart until they say
otherwise. I’ve noticed that several of the comments on the petition,
including your comments, stated that we should compromise and work with
the builder to make the anchor store work. Without ordinance 1450,
there’s no incentive for the builder to even come to the table to talk
about it. One aspect of 1450 that people keep forgetting to mention is
that it doesn’t prevent a big-box from being built. It just requires
that the builder would need to acquire a special-use permit for the
Subdressing_2ilding in question. The builder would then have an incentive to work
with the town on making the anchor store work for the community. I
personally believe the town doesn’t want to see this opportunity pass
them b
y, which is why I believe they’ll use 1450 in a positive manner."

Thanks for the comment, Paul.  If my memory serves me right, every plan has shown a large-footprint anchor
store on the plan, it's just that when the developer decided to take residential out of the plan and replace it with a larger footprint, people got upset.  The developer never proffered to include residential – they wanted to include residential but I'm sure quickly found in signing leases that an anchor tenant was going to be key to the plan.  As I've said before (, I don't want a Wal-Mart either but I have seen applications where the big-box fits well into the scheme of the project and I think that can happen here.  What I DO want is for the project to continue in an expeditious manner.  The Town has repeatedly rejected opportunities over the last several years that would have created significant commercial tax revenue and slowed the rampant growth in the residential sector that has driven so many to live elsewhere.  Without revealing too much, I may or may not – wink wink – have had the opportunity to learn a good bit more about the project within the last month, and I walked away from that meeting feeling no better about the fact that it wouldn't be a Wal-Mart on that site.  But I also didn't get the impression that it couldn't be any number of other large anchor tenants.  I don't shop at Wal-Mart – I don't care about cheap plastic stuff – but there are a lot of other tenants in that tenant mix that I want to see here and I firmly believe this is an opportunity for the Town to step up and make this work.

Here's the thing that bothers me the most – Ordinance 1450 seems to have been   put in place after a minority started pushing on Council to retract the approval they agreed upon last summer, and Council relented.  I don't have a problem with Council changing a previous agreement if that agreement was invalid in some way, but in this case they rezoned the property to allow the development to continue and now are attempting to change zoning again less than 12 months later to restrict the development.  I am no architect or space planner but I'd be willing to bet that 80000 square feet is not going to be touched by any of the retailers that would be considered big box stores.  If a big box store is what is needed to make something like this work – and if you look at other lifestyle centers you'll see that it's a theme among all of them – then the development will not succeed.  Large-scale retail in lifestyle centers like this scratches smaller retail's back.  The closest lifestyle center to Blacksburg right now is probably Concord Mills in NC, and that's a "prehistoric" version as it's really a mall.  But it's a good example.  The "smaller" retailers of Concord Mills (chosen randomly from CM's website) – like Ann Taylor Loft, California Pizza Kitchen, Oakley and Wet Seal – do not survive without traffic from the Circuit City's, BJ's, and Home Depot's both surrounding the mall AND within the mall.  The smaller retailers just don't attract the dollars necessary to make that work, but the larger retailers do. 

I think you and I agree on most of this, but from comments made publicly by some of the Council I just don't believe they are interested in using Ordinance 1450 as a means of working with this developer and that's where we likely disagree.  Like so many others I sat through those public sessions and heard the proffers to fulfill what the Town was requesting.  Now, someone posts a website saying "WAL-MART IS COMING, WAL-MART IS COMING" and Ordinace 1450 is fast-tracked.  That says to me the Town isn't interested in working with the development or discussions would have taken place; they're interested in working against it and that's where I think a SUP wouldn't be approved.  But I'm hopeful that I'm wrong …

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