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Why does Midtown need a big box store?

This story is about a forthcoming six-acre “superblock” being developed in Midtown, and about Midtown’s rise as a successful residential/entertainment area. What caught my eye was this bit at the end:

Still, Midtown has yet to see any significant new retail, retail broker Ed Page said, referring to big-box stores like Target, TJ Maxx and Best Buy.

“I believe at some point in time that hurdle will be crossed, and I think there will be a significant retail project down there,” said Page, managing partner of UCR moodyrambin PAGE.

Why does Midtown need someplace like that? Midtown has grown as a dense, reasonably walkable area with convenient access to the Main Street light rail line. Big box development is the antithesis of this. In fact, as Andrew Burleson showed, big box development stops nascent walkable development in its tracks. Why do that to Midtown? It’s not like big box stores are unavailable to Midtowners. All three of the places mentioned in this story have locations near 59 and 610, which is to say a 10 minute or so drive from Midtown. So I ask again, why does Midtown need someplace like that? It makes no sense to me.

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  1. Christof Spieler says:

    The problem with big box stores is not the store; it’s the box. Put a Target into a building that fills the block and faces the sidewalk all the way around and it would great in Midtown.

    Here’s a Target+Best Buy in Washington DC, right at Columbia Heights METRO:,Washington,+DC&ei=vfegUJypMYLq2QXi3IA4&ved=0CLIBELYD

    (And while nobody will buy a big screen TV by riding transit, there are a lot of Target and Best Buy shopping trips that could be made by train.)

  2. Bob S says:

    There was a time when the ‘big box’ had a Foley’s or a Joske’s inside, in Houston or San Antonio, or to take the DC example, a Hecht’s or a Woodward & Lothrop. Being big in and of itself doesn’t have to be bad for the neighborhood. It just needs to be something with a facade and windows that welcomes pedestrians. Wouldn’t it be great to revive the art of creative shop windows and lure more window shoppers?

  3. The mama says:

    +1 on Christof’s comment.

    The thing I dislike most about big boxes are the parking lots, but that can be addressed with creativity and a progressive planning department.

  4. BenP says:

    While technically not “big box” there is a Macy’s and a Sears abutting either end of Midtown on the Main Street rail line. Plenty of free parking adjacent to Sears, and it is easy to find cheap on-street parking close to Macy’s on Saturdays if you don’t want to ride the rail.

  5. Tory says:

    I agree and don’t see the need. Wal-Mart and Target are now about 5 mins away from Midtown along I-10W – just hop on the Brazos on-ramp and you’re there in no time (certainly much faster than 90% of the suburbs can get to theirs). TJ Maxx is right down W. Gray at Waugh. Best Buy seems to be dying a slow death with the domination of Amazon (they certainly aren’t opening new stores). I can’t think of any critical retail that isn’t easily accessible from Midtown.

  6. The mama says:

    Tory, yes, assuming light traffic.

    But my vision is for someone to not have to drive at all. 🙂

    I tend to avoid shopping at big box stores, but I can see how even one or two such stores in Midtown (Office Max? Target? Ross?) would encourage people to see the area as the kind of place where residents could truly work and live. Right now, Midtown seems to me like the kind of place were residents work . . . and then go to happy hour.

  7. Tory says:

    I kinda feel like Midtown is already pretty much there with Randall’s (that was the big one), CVS, Walgreens, and the mega-Specs (inc. the deli and exotic grocery) – all of which are in walking distance of most of the residential. The big box trips seem typically rare enough and big enough (in terms of volume of stuff bought) to justify a short car trip. I think if you talked to all those stores, they’d say they already have a location that counts Midtown in its draw zone, and they wouldn’t see the point to diluting their sales per store by adding another location in Midtown. Just being realistic. Do love that we’re getting a new Alamo theater though…