Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Big Box Surplus Space

One of the major 'big ideas' of our Integrating Habitats competition, or the idea of reinventing suburbia in general, is the reduced parking need over time - and what to do with the leftover paved areas. An article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows this idea isn't merely peak oil induced futurism, but a more current reality. From the article: "Ever think a Home Depot parking lot is too sprawling and vacant? Home Depot does, too. 'A number of stores have barren asphalt, and it’s not in anyone’s best interest to leave it sitting there,' said Mike LaFerle, Home Depot’s vice president of real estate."

:: image via ajc

It's not a surprise, when at least 1/3 of all the properties for big box stores are for parking and many stores downsizing or at least getting much less traffic, that valuable land starts looking desirable. Continuing: "But Home Depot has land, and lots of it. In its most recent annual report, the company said it owns 89 percent of its 2,274 stores chainwide (including stores in Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico). That’s 212 million square feet of real estate — not including parking lots and garden sales areas. The value of Home Depot’s land assets totaled $8.3 billion, the report said, and building assets are $17 billion."

What might this mean in terms of area? "Few big box stores have as much parking as a Home Depot, he noted. Home Depot typically buys about 12 to 15 acres per store, he said, at an average cost of $500,000 per acre. He estimated Home Depot could sell the acreage for about that much, and raise tens of millions of dollars with the asset sales."

At 2000 stores, that's between up to 30,000 square feet of pavement ready for repurposing in full or in part.

Oddly enough (or perhaps not surprising) the ideas of how to reuse these spaces, mostly with more of the same (in a smaller variety): "Despite the general retail slowdown, chains that are still expanding — such as Chick-fil-A, Arby’s and El Pollo Loco — may jump at the chance to be near a Home Depot store, he said. “It’s a good strategy,” he said. “It’s no different from a power center anchored by a Target or Kohl’s, with small tenants like Sally Beauty Supply as a co-tenant.”

:: the cat box? - image via lowering the bar

Or as I mentioned in an email recently. That's like cleaning all the dogshit out of the backyard, then dumping the catbox in a pile in the front yard... or something like that :)


  1. One thing I've noticed about most of the Home Depot stores, at least in the Denver metro area is that restaurants are never in the same parking lot.

    I notice this because I always end up buying one of those bratwursts from those little coaches in front of the stores. Considering how much those damned bratwursts cost, fast-food restaurants could possibly make a killing :)

  2. I think the most fair way to combat excessive parking lots is actually at the public policy level rather than the design level. Most property taxes are assessed and given a value (often arbitrary) -- and a simple switch to a land value tax (LVT) would impose taxes on the land rather than the value of the land and the building.

    In the case of Home Depot, this will result in more compact development and ultimately less insanely large surface parking lots. It's also a lot more fair to the taxpayer in many regards too, as it assesses their taxes on their land, and any improvements done on their property is not punitive to their pocket book.


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