Store Size and Ripple Effects

As you may know from articles we’ve written recently about Kimco’s plans to redevelop its Owings Mills Mall property, we’ve been encouraging Councilman Julian Jones to introduce a bill limiting store size. Why? The answer is, “ripple effects.”

Let’s begin with a simple observation. Everybody in Baltimore County’s District 4 who needs “stuff” and has the money to buy it is already buying it somewhere. So, if a new store opens up selling something people are already buying somewhere else, whatever this new store sells comes at the expense of its competitors. Absent any significant population growth, the new Wegman’s at Foundry Row is, for example, going to be stealing business from other grocery stores. Count on it.  Sometimes that’s a good thing. Other times, it’s not.

We believe that major development should produce significant net positive benefits to the communities it serves. It can’t just be about a developer stealing stores and customers from established neighborhoods, making profits at their expense.

Okay. In this particular case, the problem is that Kimco wants build an ordinary big box strip center on its Mall property anchored by a Walmart Supercenter or some other very large store, like a Lowe’s for example. These stores are typically 180,000 SF or more – so large that they impact economic activity around them. That impact is what we call a “ripple effect.”

Make no mistake about it, a ripple effect can be a good thing. Putting a huge concert/sports/convention center on the Mall property, for example, is a unique facility that would draw crowds from all over the greater metropolitan area and then some – people who are prospective customers for all sorts of local business already in place. A mixed use office, commercial and residential development would also have beneficial effects or ripples.

But suppose the best the developer can come up with is a big box store strip center containing stores that are either the same or direct competitors with established businesses nearby. The Liberty Road and Reisterstown Road Walmarts, for example, would likely be closed were a Walmart Supercenter to open on the Mall property. Likewise, a Lowe’s on the Mall property would be in direct competition with the Home Depot on Liberty Road.

Hurt or close the existing Walmarts and the Home Depot and many smaller stores that depend upon customer traffic from these anchors will also be adversely affected. More negative ripples. The damage continues until you go far enough away that these negative ripples have dissipated.

And that’s the point of a bill that restricts store size on the Mall property – to prevent development involving stores so large that have significant negative effects on other centers of commerce nearby.

Let’s say you’re in the community pool, just hanging out, talking to your friends on a hot, humid Saturday afternoon. A little 3 year old kid does a cannonball into the water way at the other end of the pool. You don’t even notice. If, on the other hand, your obnoxious, 160 lb. cousin, Buddy, does one a few feet away? Just when the cute guy was about to ask you out? Well, you know how that goes.

As a rule, stores having 60,000 SF or less are large, but not so large that their ripple effects are devastating to established business in the area.

Even with the 60,000 SF limit, Kimco will still have all sorts of big box strip center options – even more it wants to go in a different, more creative direction. …Everybody makes money. Nobody gets seriously hurt.

No one’s asking Kimco to make anything less than an impressive return on its investment. All the bill restricting store size does is insist that they not make that profit at the expense of the families and businesses already in place in the greater community Kimco’s new Owings Mills Town Center will serve.

And what stores will a 60,000 SF or even 80,000 SF restriction preclude? Costco and Target Greatland have already said “No” to Kimco. There are already two Walmarts and a Home Depot nearby. So, what does that leave us? A BJ’s Warehouse? Judging from the highly vocal crowds at Councilman Jones’ two town meetings earlier this week, no one wants any of these stores on the Mall property anyway.

So it’s about the ripple effects, the negative ones that will be caused by putting huge big box stores on the Mall property.

This is your county, not Kimco’s.
Kimco doesn’t live here. You do.

Please consider signing our petition while you’re visiting our website and/or call or email Councilman Jones to describe your concerns and offer your suggestions. Here’s his contact information…

District 4 Councilman Julian Jones
Towson Office Number… 410-887-3389
District Office Number… 410-887-0784
Email Address…

Thank you.

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