Meeting the Big Box Challenge: Planning, Design, and Regulatory Strategies

PAS Report 537

By Jennifer Evans-Cowley, FAICP

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Big-box retail is here to stay. How can planners avoid the pitfalls and take advantage of the opportunities presented by these commercial behemoths?

This report explains the planning, design, and regulatory techniques that have been used by communities and the companies themselves to find solutions that meet the needs of citizens and retailers. It describes the types of big-box retailers and provides definitions from zoning ordinances. It covers planning concerns such as aesthetics and traffic generation, as well as big-box stores' effects on local economies.

With examples of everything from design control to demolition bonds to adaptive reuse, the report shows how communities around the country are responding to the rise of the big box.

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Page Count
Date Published
April 18, 2006
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Table of Contents

What Is a Big-Box Retail Store? • Types of Big-Box Retailers • Defining the Big Box • Sources of Information about Trends in Big-Box Retail • Trends in Big-Box Retail

Planning Issues Created by the Big Box and Its Business Practices • The Design Issue • Local Economic Development and the Big-Box Business • Encouraging the Big Box through Economic Development Incentives

Regulatory Strategies • Moratoria • Square-Footage Limitations • Grocery Limitations • Formula Business Ordinances • Design Review • Signage • Landscaping • Storage • Community Amenities • Pedestrian and Bicycle Access • Green Design • Traffic Impact Studies • Economic Impact Analysis • Wage and Benefit Standards • What to Do When the Big Box Closes: "White Elephant" Ordinances and Adaptive Reuse • White Elephant Ordinances • Adaptive Reuse • Other Regulatory Approaches