Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Walmart on Flatbush Avenue: A Bird-Brained Idea

The Brooklyn Paper is reporting that a vacant site adjacent to the Toys-R-Us on Flatbush Avenue, may become home to Walmart-and since the name of the new center is, The Four Sparrows Retail Center, we feel comfortable at labeling this a bird-brained idea: "A new retail center is coming to the southern tip of Flatbush Avenue — and it could bring Walmart with it. The city says it wants to expand a shopping strip where a Toys ’R’ Us currently sits between Kings Plaza and the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge to accommodate up to three more stores, more parking and 15 acres of parkland. The new shopping center — dubbed the Four Sparrows Retail Center — would be just big enough to house a Walmart superstore, so critics of the Bentonville Behemoth where quick to question the plan."

For her part, the chair of the local community board-our old friend Dorothy Turano-doesn't appear to be thrilled: "I don’t know what the idea is,” said Community Board 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano as she prepared to attend a scoping session on the proposed project on Tuesday night. “We still don’t know who’s coming to the site. We could wake up one morning and find a Walmart there. There’s too many variables.”

This is one chicken coop to watch, particularly since EDC is the fox guarding the development hen house: "The city’s Economic Development Corporation, the lead agency in the project, said it was still in its infancy and it was too early to know just who will be moving into the remaining buildings." Not too early in our view-and we have seen how the failure to strictly monitor this agency has led to the Walmart trouble on Gateway Estates. Check with CM Barron on this front.

Which is why we feel that CM Fidler shouldn't be so sanguine about the possibility of Big Wally on Flatbush Ave: "But Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Mill Basin), said he’s received assurances that Walmart will not be coming. “There is not going to be enough shopping center for [a Walmart],” he said. “My conversations with the city led me to believe that they’re hoping for more upscale retail — like a Trader Joe’s — that would be an economic enhancement to the area.”

In our view, however, it is best to not take anything EDC says seriously-and the community board and the council member should hold off on approving any project that lacks a developer and a development plan. Thankfully, the EDC scoping session scheduled for last night was postponed because of the snow-giving all a good opportunity to think this all thing through, and by doing so, avoid a repeat of Gateway II.