Monday, February 23, 2009

There Goes the Neighborhood?

Just as we have been reflecting on the rapid decline of Main Street economies all over the city, comes the news that Wal-Mart may be interested in a location on Union Square. As the Villager reports: "Electronics retailer Circuit City, which filed for bankruptcy late last year, will shutter its location on 14th St. at Fourth Ave. at the end of next month as part of plan to auction off all its properties and leases nationwide. A sales associate at the store said that Walmart was interested in the space, which is owned by developer The Related Companies, although a New York-based spokesperson for Walmart said the big-box chain currently has no announced projects in the city."

Frankly, we can't see the Walmonster in this cramped location-and it would certainly be breaking the mold for the retail giant to go into this kind of urban spot without any parking. Still, we did get a kick out of some of the comments posted in New York Magazine about the potential entry. As one pointed out: "If this happens, then it would be the end of NYC forever. And don't say it couldn't happen. Circuit City shares the building with Virgin megastore, which will also be closing in a year -- making a Wal-Mart box store very possible. Union square is already too crowded, what with the NYU students, street vendors and tourists clogging it. Bring back the junkies, I say."

For our part, we believe that if Wal-Mart does make the move, it will; be to the kind of large location-with parking-that would give the store the opportunity to draw folks easily from a wide geographic area. But then again, they've already tried that here, here, and here, without much success; so maybe they will opt for the cramped Union Square spot as a last resort. It is, after all, as-of-right.