Friday, January 27, 2006

The council tabled a proposal to put a Sam's Club and Wal-Mart Supercenter on Randall Road at the Bowes intersection. I hadn't heard anything about this proposal before, so I found it sort of suprising. I'd thought though that the site mentioned was the one the GBL had its eyes on for a branch library. But I guess not, unless they're going to put it in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

Anyway, as usual the mayor was for the development, arguing it would generate $1.6M per year in tax revenue. It's hard to argue against revenue! But the opposition, which seems to have been led by Mr. Sandor, said Elgin deserved higher-end retail, something better than Wal-Mart.

Retail on Randall in Elgin is sort of a tricky problem. I talked about this in a previous entry. Geneva and Algonguin boxed us in with their Commons. I don't think there's anything we can do about that. If we could hop on a magic carpet and go several years back in time, the city would have had its ear to the ground, and as soon as it had heard rumours of an Algonquin Commons, it would have preempted the development and moved it to Elgin via an appropriate incentive package. That didn't happen, so I think we have to adjust to the current reality.

I'm not sure what Mr. Sandor and the other opposing members mean by "high-end" retail, but my guess would be that whatever it is, it's not realistic. Such stores would tend to congregate near the existing "high-end" centers at Geneva and Algonguin. But even if Elgin could attract a retailer that was more "high-end" than Walmart, since higher prices generally translate to lower sales volume, there's no telling whether it would generate more or less in tax revenue.

As far as discount retailers go, my preference would be for a Sears Grand. I think the council should march down Beverly Road and make a case for why a Sears Grand on Randall would not only be profitable, but solve many of Sears's employee morale problems. Unlike a Walmart, a Sears Grand is novel enough that it would be of regional interest; I think it would draw shoppers from the tri-cities, as well as the northern Fox Valley, and of course it would draw Sears employees, many of whom have never even seen a real life Sears Grand. Sears Grand makes particularly good sense in Elgin, I think, because while Sears used to have a presence in the heart of Elgin, the downtown, it now has no presence in Elgin whatsoever. A great city of 100,000 people--the closest real city to their headquarters--and no Sears! This is a terrible situation in need of a remedy.

If Sears refuses to bite though, I think a new Wal-Mart is not such a bad idea. But I'm sort of biased; unlike some people today, I have nothing against Walmart. I think its low prices have given millions of Americans a higher standard of living.

I'm more skeptical of the Lowes hardware store that the council approved several weeks ago. Now there's going to be two Home Depots (a new one just broke ground on Randall & McDonald), a Menards and a Lowes all in spitting distance of each other. Even the biggest Elgin real estate bull, I think, would be skeptical of the viability of all these stores competing in such proximity. Maybe two will survive. In which case, we'll end up with a couple of empty shells not unlike the one blighting the Otter Creek Shopping Center.

If tax revenues weren't an issue--and maybe they shouldn't be, it might be good to have a large office building--somebody's headquarters--or maybe even a new, architecturally-stunning Elgin High School on that spot. Now there's an idea...

I wrote this entry last night--though I didn't get around to posting it--after reading the stories in the Herald and the Courier. The Courier followed up with another story today, which shed more light on the subject. It seems that by "high-end," Mr. Sandor was referring to stores like Pier One, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Men's Wearhouse. The tax figure given in today's story is $1.8M rather than $1.6M.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently bought a washer and a dryer and checked the Consumer Reports guide. According to CR, the best places to buy appliances are at small local stores, because that's where you get knowledgable service. Just try asking someone at Walmart for help choosing tools or household goods!

Not only has Walmart run out of business the family-owned stores that exemplified the American Dream, they've taken jobs away from blue collar people who used to work in U.S. factories. (Virtually everything at Walmart is made overseas for almost nothing.)

In spite of being among the world's richest companies, Walmart tells its workers to get medical benefits from the government rather than give them a health plan. We're talking about thousands, even ten thousands of Walmart employees, sucking up welfare funds per state.

Did I mention the fact that Walmart spies on its employees (who can't even eat together in the lunch room) for fear of unionization? Or all the rapes and murders that happen in Walmart parking lots while the stores are using security cameras *inside the stores* to ensure that workers don't talk to one another?

I remember when shopping in Elgin meant going downtown and buying American-made products from salaried salespeople at Ackemann's and Spiess. My aunt, who worked in one of those stores, was able to take her kids to the doctor if they got sick. Now Elgin's gone to hell with the rest of suburbia.

9:23 PM  
Blogger The Elginite said...

Thanks for the input!

5:06 PM  

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