Walmart’s decision to vacate its storefront at 275 Main St. in downtown White Plains has left many to wonder what will happen to the 179,000 square feet of retail space the store will leave behind.
Residents’ suggestions have ranged from a high-end grocer, like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, to a budget retailer. Others have called for the demolition of the building completely to make way for new development.
“I imagine this is going to create a lot of interest,” said White Plains Mayor Tom Roach, adding that the building sits on a “valuable piece” of real estate.
While some have lamented the retail giant’s decision to vacate its downtown location, the news was welcomed by others.
“That area of town is a popular area,” said Howard Greenberg, president of Howard Properties Ltd., a White Plains commercial real estate services firm. “Walmart was not the anchor you wanted to see there.”
Greenberg said Walmart’s announcement, which came on July 24, could be “a great opportunity” for the city of White Plains.
“I think from a city planning point of view, Walmart is not necessarily the tenant you want, the retailer you want in the dead center of the city,” he said. “Here’s an opportunity to get something of more quality into that space.”
Still, what will become of that vacant space, or the building itself, is not yet certain.
“Whether it’s retail or it’s demolished and it goes to a mixed-use scenario or some other residential development, I can see only pluses,” Greenberg said.
The 275,000-square-foot building at 275 Main St., which also includes a Dunkin’ Donuts and Burlington Coat Factory, is owned by Greenwich-based Ivy Realty.
Recently, Ivy Realty announced plans to complete a $30 million renovation to the nearby White Plains Plaza, the two-building, 700,000-square-foot mixed-use complex at 1 N. Broadway and 445 Hamilton Ave. Those improvements will include upgrades to the 1,000-space parking garage between the buildings and an updated café, lobby and conference center at the 445 Hamilton building, referred to as the North Tower.
Greenberg said Ivy Realty has already completed “tremendous upgrades” on the buildings it owns in downtown White Plains.
“Here’s an opportunity to take the last piece of the development, and whatever they do with it will be an upgrade,” Greenberg said. “I think Ivy is a very savvy developer.”
“I think that the best thing to happen will be when it’s no longer known as the Walmart building,” he said.
Elsewhere in downtown White Plains, redevelopment plans are already in the works for another section of Main Street. Just a few blocks away, developer Martin Ginsburg and his company, Ginsburg Development Cos., plans to complete a major redevelopment of downtown office buildings. The Valhalla developer announced earlier this year that it teamed up with Robert Martin Co. on the $83 million acquisition of Westchester Financial Center, two office buildings comprising about 570,000 square feet on Main Street and Martine Avenue.
Those properties, along with an apartment building he bought last year on the same block, will be transformed into a new “City Square” with luxury apartments, green space, restaurants, retail and renovated offices.
“White Plains is a city that is really a central location in Westchester,” Ginsburg said.
Ginsburg noted that the property’s location near the White Plains train station, which is in the midst of a $92 million renovation, makes the area an attractive part of town for developers.
Greenberg agreed, noting that the White Plains building could be transformed into another transit-oriented development.
“That is very much in demand,” he said.
A Walmart spokesman previously told the Business Journal that the decision to leave White Plains was based on a number of factors, including its strategic alignment with the company’s long-term plans. The company also plans to shift its focus to larger stores, known as Walmart Supercenters.
“This store does not offer the same assortment as our supercenters,” spokesman Phillip Keene said, noting that the superstores feature departments including bakery, deli and produce. “Along with financial performance, that was a factor in this particular case.”
The store, which opened in 2006, is expected to close to the public by Aug. 10. The closing will affect 396 employees.