Limited by their size and sprawling warehouses usually disguised with little more than a painted, cinder block facade, discount department stores have avoided densely populated urban areas. When we do see one, it's usually found in a mid-century, urban mall designed to compete with the relocated retail that fled the city years ago.
But for the most part, the Wal-Marts and Targets are found closest to the cities in former industrial areas where large tracts of land have been cleared. Selling everything from kibble to lawnmowers, servicing cars and licensing hunting rifles, these discount retailers are rarely engineered vertically.
They still might not be. But a new trend is bringing these retailers to the American downtown. And with a short break in the global Recession and urbanites still wondering if that Arts Condo will ever be worth more than $100 grand, it isn't a moment too soon.
Starting in downtown Los Angeles, Target is experimenting with a new brand: City Target. The second stop in City Target's urban trail is Center City Philadelphia. Not exactly small when it comes to the East Coast grid, these stores will be limited to 100,000 feet and serve primarily as grocers. That's pretty big, and if Target wants to best service Center City, I can't think of a better location than The Disney Hole at 9th and Market.
Connected to SEPTA's regional rails, subway, and Patco's high speed line, 9th and Market is not only convenient to Jefferson University students, Chinatown, Washington Square, numerous hotels, Old City, tourists, and conventioneers, all without a major grocery store, it might provide the competition K-Mart at The Gallery needs to start stocking its shelves and cleaning up its display windows. There really is no better location.