Submitted by Paul Nimmo.
Planning is important for everyone. As Benjamin Franklin stated, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”. Planning is so important, that Government dedicates entire laws in requiring planning for the future, such as the “Growth Management Act” set in statute.
Just a few of the City of Lakewood “plans” on-going:
- Strategic Plan 2018-2020
- Lakewood Station District Subarea Plan
- Parks, Recreation and Open Space Management Plan (Parks Legacy Plan)
- Transportation Improvement Program
And so on…
One of the plans that recently peaked an interest is the “Lakewood Landing” proposal. “The city would like to see retail, office space and housing added to this premier location”. What screams out to me anytime I see the word “retail” is a plan for failure.
The retail industry located within brick and mortar footprints is declining. Existing retail operations are growing smaller in space usage due to improved supply and delivery options. There is no need to carry high levels of inventory when you can have it shipped to a customer overnight, or to the store itself. Construction costs have also kept stores smaller.
If you noted the word “existing”, the number of retailers in the US has declined sharply. Mom & Pop stores are dwindling, but even more so, chains are falling victim to the even larger retailers. Changing shopping habits of the US consumer has also made the physical store an endangered species. There is speculation that 25% of shopping Malls will be redeveloped or gone altogether in 10 years.
However, I also cannot believe we want to encourage further retail growth on new areas, while existing retail areas sit vacant. These areas are often cared for, or more so, uncared for by out-of-state landowners that have no vested interest in the community. The new development will not entice new retail businesses, but only redistribute the ones remaining, and that is a declining number. It is getting more difficult to encourage people to drive to a specific area to shop when it is easier to walk over to their computer to do the same thing.
I passionately believe that there should be a moratorium on retail plan approval until 70% of the existing vacant retail space is either filled or redeveloped. Furthermore, any existing vacancy that has not been filled or redeveloped within 2 years, should force the landowner to sell or fully redevelop the site, even if that means bulldozer landscaping. The picture included is one of our jewels in Lakewood, sitting as an eyesore for at least the last 5 years.
It is one thing to plan, but plans should have a goal of success, and retail development in new areas simply is not a sound plan. Plans like this only guarantees work for people that continue to make plans.