Yesterday, a reader tipped us off to a Gizmodo story that led us to a longer story from the Architectural Record, which got us thinking about development possibilities in Philadelphia. In short, Walmart is taking a dramatic shift away from their traditional suburban big-box model and is now attempting to create a smaller urban concept. In DC, in the Fort Totten neighborhood, Walmart will be a ground floor retailer in a new mixed-use development called Fort Totten Square. Whereas new suburban Walmart locations have over 180,000 sqft these days, this one will top out at 125,000 sqft. Sure, that's still huge. But by comparison, not so much.
Designed by Hickok Cole Architects, the project will include a first floor Walmart, 10,000 sqft of additional non-Walmart retail, and 345 apartments over five stories. The buildings will wrap around an interior courtyard a la the Piazza, with amenities like green space and a swimming pool. Sadly, we bet they'll only show Nats games on their big screen television.
Looking at a project like this, we wonder whether a similar downtown Walmart concept could someday come to Philadelphia. While it would certainly seem to make intuitive sense for a project like Liberty Square, which is pretty similar to the Fort Totten Square project, we could also fathom an urban Walmart as part of a project that perhaps involves less of a residential component. Way back in the summer of 2011, we wondered about a Target possibly opening in Market East, as part of a renovated Girard Square. Could a Walmart take Target's place in a similar project? Or could a Walmart rear its head somewhere else in town?
If Walmart were to anchor a new mixed-use development in town, would it be such a bad thing? Or would it be a good thing? Or perhaps somewhere in the middle?