Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Two tough issues for the Carbondale City Council - Smoking and CVS

I think the Carbondale City Council is facing a couple of really tough issues in the vote to ban smoking and rezone the corner of Oakland and Walnut for CVS this meeting and next.

We saw the first vote last night on banning smoking, it was a tie 3-3. Personally, I'm for banning all smoking in all public buildings. But, the anti-ban group did a really poor job selling this ban. They should go back and find the economic impact of a one city ban, like the one they want, on the businesses in town. For example, find a Midwestern city that passed the ban a year or two ago and see what the effect was on restaurant and bar revenue. If the economic effect was positive or neutral, I bet they could get the ban though.

Personally, I think the right place to get this passed is at the state level. That is where the health costs really rest and where the most level playing field can be established. Yes, I know that would be harder to do.

Clearly this is all about money for the local business people. The argument that their employees smoke and it is their right to cause cancer in others is really stupid. Because the pro-ban people didn't do their homework on the money, they let the businesses off the hook.

CVS going in on the corner of Oakland is really interesting. I have written that I'm against it, but I'm now really on the fence. You are talking about a bunch of really crappy homes. I have seen the map of where they would like to build now and CVS has offered as part of the deal to keep the traffic and noise on the Oakland side and have a blank wall facing East and a green belt too. The homes that will be effected are already really the homes on the South side of Walnut at the Oakland corner. Those homes already are on the busiest street in Carbondale and next to a fire station. There is noise and light there 24/7 now, I'm not sure I'm buying that CVS is really a great burden on the local houses. I'm certainly not buying the selling booze BS being thrown around.

Carbondale is completly dependent on our sales tax revenue to fund our local services. You are talking about a length of street that has a fire station, 24 hour grocery store and strip mall and a video store and pizza takeout already. It is the busiest street in Carbondale. I'm pretty sure that everyone within a reasonable distance from the proposed CVS site has purchased their house since 13 went one way.

I don't expect that you will see the kinds of people who hangout at Walgreen's late at night, because they aren't near the Northeast.

As I wrote before, I feel that it is going to be very difficult for the "Arbor District" (which is shaped like a snake) to fight off the economic reality that the property around them is worth more as retail and rental then residential. The traffic noise and speed on 13 and the state of School District 95 make it unlikely that families will move in to the area. They are already surrounded by rooming houses, frat houses and flop houses. If something like CVS doesn't happen now, it is very likely to happen in the future.

CVS is a very tough call. I'm pretty sure I would vote against it, if I was voting. But, I'm not sure.


Anonymous said...

All good points, here's another:

9 of the 10 homes that would be torn down are rentals.

Peter in Carbondale said...

You could try to buy every house on the CVS site and the ones next to the CVS site and the ones next to them and every owner would cheerfully sell and move somewhere else. I suspect, that if CVS wanted to buy every house down the block to Forest it would be pretty easy to do.

That area's houses are very small and since 13 became one way, incredibly undesirable. You can play games if you want, but that whole area between Oakland and Maple (?) is rental houses or will be as soon as the current owners die or move.

I went and walked around after talking with a friend about it. Those houses are in worse shape then the AG building.

Anonymous said...

The point here is not the quality of houses, but rather that this would be further encroachment into a residential area. No one believes these are great old houses, but many believe any type of new development here should be residential or at least professional/administrative. Also, the arbor district is changing for the better as more people buy old houses and are fixing them up. You are wrong when you say the singlefamily homes are full of old people who have been there forever. Most are new to the area and are rather young, many with childern. Drive down West Monroe or West Elm between university and poplar or West cherry between poplar and forest and you will see the changes I'm talking about. The city has drawn the residential line with much interest from others at Oakland. There are plenty of business zones in Carbondale, many with tax incentives for CVS to locate. Rolf Schilling should have been smarter than to pick a residential area known for being organized and against such encroachments (Family Video). But then I doubt Mr. Schilling has any interests other than his pocket book in mind here. The Arbor District can be a great dynamic urban neighborhood if given the chance. As the most visible neighborhood it could send the message Carbondale cares about and has great neighborhoods. It might help SIU attract more students and the city attract more industry. I'm all for redevelopment of oakland and walnut but let it be a good neighbor to the residential area to the east. A 24 hour, highly lighted, traffic intense, drive-thru that may close within a couple of years (CVS closed 62 stores last year, 11 of them open less than three years) is not a good neighbor.

Peter in Carbondale said...

I think you are close to seeing the answer. It isn't that the Arbor neighborhood is powerful or well organized, it was that CVS isn't worth the pain for the politicians. They are already in town, they would be doing something very close to lots of other stores. Economically this isn't a big win for the city.

We now know that one of the best corners to place a freestanding business is on the market for a reasonable price. If a really good deal for the city shows up, it is going to be hard to turn down. Kind of like when the Gap needed money to come to the mall.

If something goes in there the city gets to clean up a really bad area and have the sales tax revenue go up. Maybe if the store wasn't 24 hours and instead was shutdown at night it would pass even for CVS?

I think that no matter what happens to CVS, this isn't over. Might I suggest that the Arbor District people buy some of those lots to keep this from happening in the future? Depending on the zoning isn't a go forward strategy once the right deal is presented.

If I was interested in making money on real estate, I might go and take down that corner and repackage it for the right business.

Sthorne said...

Regarding the smoking ban, Manchester MO implemented a community wide one and overall revenues went up. Conversely, according to Chris Wissmann, Springfield IL, which passed an ordinance similar to the one Carbondale condered, is revisiting it as revenues for bars and restaurants have dropped 60%. That might account for his vote last week.

Anonymous said...

I'd say retail in that location is fine, if the owners want to sell. I don't think CVS is the right owner in that area. They'll be moving a few miles away from the new Wal-Mart, into a new store, (which would better compete with the new Wal-Mart.) and leave a whole in the existing shopping center (KrogerWest)

THE busiest and most dangerous intersection, according to IDOT, in Carbondale, is the Wal-mart RT13 intersection. Avoid it at all costs.