Private equity killed big box retailers, leaving empty big boxes across America, and architects have plans

It’s certainly true that higher minimum standards for housing can increase homelessness. Many cities saw an increase in homelessness with the elimination of SROs and residential hotels. (think of the flophouse where the Blues Brothers were living) When you saw away the bottom rung of housing, most of the people there end up homeless, not moving up. But fire safety is IMPORTANT, and IMHO should not be compromised. There are very good reasons that the rules for spaces where people sleep are different from those for stores. The fire is likely to be much further along before people begin to evacuate, so the distance to the “exit enclosure” has to be shorter.


Wow. If true, that’s some mighty monstrous behavior.


Back in the early 90s(?), I remember reading a short piece of futurist writing about this very thing. Talked about how when the store closed, the buildings would first be taken over by artists, then go through a cycle of uses until finally being lovingly restored to its original color scheme and would have a rusty old semi truck parked out in front, å la the old plows and tractors placed in front of gentrified farmhouses. I thought it was written by Gibson in an issue of Wired, but earlier attempts to track it down have failed. If anyone remembers what this was, please let me know. Thanks


Now the people who camp in the Walmart parking lot can move inside.


That sounds like the sorts of actions attributed to Jews in the Middle ages…Torturing communion wafers etc… Driven more by projection than reality.

Sounds reminiscent of Gibson’s Virtual Light


Unfortunately, I think that’s not true at all. For the most part, it’s ideological and political hurdles that have lead to a dearth of affordable housing… The fact that a store may be vacant does not mean it has no owner. Said owner has a right to do with their property what they wish. To requisition an vacant (not abandoned) property, the public would need to raise a ton of money with no hope of return on investment, since such a store will require myriad of improvements for human habitation (plumbing for instance). This would require a massive change in public will to (re)embrace public housing- I hope that can happen.

The “barriers” to development like ADA requirements and safety measures (like no lead paint) are there to help people and ensure their safety, much to the chagrin of developers who would prefer to build like mad without regulation… You are correct that there are acute housing needs, and in those situations, temporary solutions might be necessary. But a bunch of cots in the Toy R Us isn’t a long-term plan. The situation is very complicated.


Nobody here is praising the big box stores or lamenting the passing. However it does leave empty usable spaces that we are interested in seeing reused in better ways.


Many contractors are trying to turn old shopping malls into schools & apartments (although residential housing is having a very difficult time taking off in that format). A local walmart near me was recently turned into a Runnings country goods store.

I heard that many of those old Toys R Us locations are being turned into Ollie’s Bargain Outlets and various other interesting things like this store in Tulsa


Lol. Is the gubmint going to do this via chemtrails?


Sounds like you work for a bank/banking lobby organization!


I thought we were going to turn abandonded big box stores into year-round maker animatronics festivals? Maybe with a parts recycling operation in the back? With lab space to figure out how to hack our endocrine systems?


Readers that find this to be article to be unimpressive should look at one of the sites referenced as a source:


Boing Boing, please do not add an economist or finance guy on your editorial board. “Finance guy” in my mind conjures the image of a rapey-white-bully-frat-boy.

Back to the topic at hand: Abandoned Big Boxes.

Amusement parks. Live-steam scale trains travel around the entire space to view the differing arenas; two skating rinks, one of wood and one of ice, plexiglass-walled 22-foot tall ball pits, a trampoline room, a bike polo court and various rooms full of LARPers.

All of this civic wonderment is financed by taxes; taxing cow milk as much as beer and taxing corn syrup at the same rate as cannabis.


A giant maker space.

(But how to make it pay for itself?)



Won’t somebody think of the 1%?


And you can’t get out of there without a ream-of-paper-sized receipt. What is with those receipts? (I have one right up the street, and have the same love/hate relationship. Nice when I need it, but it’s not necessarily quick.)


I wouldn’t have guessed this thread to be the trollbait de jeur…

Now to the OP;the reverse is happening down the street from me- target is retrofitting a 70’s era amf bowling alley into a city target (aside- unggh.)

Basically updating the proto-box form into the post-modern urban-box form.

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As a former resident of the area, I’ll say the McAllen Library project turned out really nice. The WalMart that had been in the building turned into a shithole (shock! horror! disbelief!), and newer WalMarts were plentiful nearby, so the building’s time was up. I’m still a little miffed that they had to pay $5 Million for the building, as Walmart would have sold it to a brokerage for pennies after it had sat empty for a while (relegating it to life as a once-a-year Halloween mart), but I’m sure it got plowed back into building another new facility elsewhere in Hidalgo County.

The $19 million that it took to turn it into a new library was only partially spent on building retrofits and safety stuff. The bulk of the money was a bunch of CapEx spending related to furnishing and equipping the library itself, which would have been spent on a new library regardless of where it went. The old McAllen library (still standing as a Main Branch and serving downtown, last I knew… it’s been a few years) was cozy in that older library sort of way (1960’s -ish construction, I think), but had zero room for expansion and was focusing its attention on existing maintenance concerns befitting a building of its age.

The new branch is on the North side of town where it serves the area into which McAllen has sprawled over the past several decades. The WalMart location was ideal for such an expansion project, and believe me when I say that anything involving a library down there is good news for everyone… everything else is cookie-cutter stores, predictable suburban chain restaurants, and scores of nearly identical housing developments with minimal lawns or greenspace. The area is depressing, it’s isolated (4 hours to San Antonio, 2 hours to Corpus Christi, 6 hours to Houston, etc…), it’s under-served (poverty and low educational performance), and let’s face it… not only is it in Texas, it’s the armpit of Texas. A new library is a beacon of light and hope.


That’s the usual propaganda. The purpose of a private equity venture is to maximize shareholder value over the term of the investment vehicle. The usual means is to buy the entity, load it with debt, extract what you can and then put it into bankruptcy to stiff the creditors. The vehicle is usually designed to operate at the extreme edge, so, going in, the investors KNOW that they have increased the bankruptcy risk, so the vehicle is designed with bankruptcy as an exit. The precise trigger is irrelevant from a private equity point of view. The eventual bankruptcy is not.


If anything, they already take up too much space elsewhere, it’s nice to have one small room without them.