Friday, July 22, 2016

The future of big box stores

Strong Towns is running a series of articles this week about big box stores and suburbia generally, and solicited contributions from their members. I have written a piece trying to identify the unique causal elements of big box stores, and the strategic lessons urbanists might glean from them.

Much of the discussion about big box stores fails to adequately distinguish between the qualities of big box stores specifically (harmful or otherwise), and the wider contextual factors that sustain the big box paradigm. While big box stores are certainly among the most visible examples of many policies that urbanists loathe, they are essentially effects and not themselves the cause. The interesting question that I speculate about is: as mediators of these baseline policy and economic forces, in what ways do big box stores smooth or amplify outcomes?

My basic conclusion is that big box stores are sociologically sticky, which on net probably makes adaptation and suburban retrofit more difficult, but also opens up various avenues for positive change. Do read the whole thing.

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