The Future of Abandoned Big Box Stores: Legal Solutions to the Legacies of Poor Planning Decisions
78 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2012
Date Written: April 1, 2012
Big box stores, the defining retail shopping location for the majority of American suburbs, are being abandoned at alarming rates, due in part to the economic downturn. These empty stores impose numerous negative externalities on the communities in which they are located, including blight, reduced property values, loss of tax revenue, environmental problems, and a decrease in social capital. While scholars have generated and critiqued prospective solutions to prevent abandonment of big box stores, this Article asserts that local zoning ordinances can alleviate the harms imposed by the thousands of existing, vacant big boxes. Because local governments control land use decisions and thus made deliberate determinations allowing big box development, this Article argues that those same local governments now have both an economic incentive and a civic responsibility to find alternative uses for these “ghostboxes.” With an eye toward sustainable development, the Article proposes and evaluates four possible alternative uses: retail reuse, adaptive reuse, demolition and redevelopment, and demolition and regreening. It then devises a framework and a series of metrics that local governments can use in deciding which of the possible solutions would be best suited for their communities. The Article concludes by considering issues of property acquisition and management.
Keywords: big box, ghostbox, vacant, abandoned, property, sustainable development, new urbanism, regreening, suburbs, zoning, retail, demoltion, redevelopment, local government, land use
JEL Classification: I12, I18, K11, K32, L66, N50, O13, O18, P32, Q1, Q18, Q15, R14, R52
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