There once was a thriving crossroad of commerce at the Gateway to Hyannis
A few ideas about how to turn it around
In Monday’s edition of Extra we learned that TGI Friday’s had joined the exodus of businesses from the Route 132 area of Hyannis. With Borders poised to close, Old Country Buffet eaten away, and the former Filene’s Basement growing dank and cold – Route 132 is starting to look like a ghost town.
Vacant storefronts abound at the Festival mall – Old Country Buffet, Blockbuster and Coldstone Creamery plus several other spaces are available. At Southwind Plaza (site of Stop & Shop, Home Depot and Old Navy) the 25,000 square foot Borders will soon go dark – leaving the gateway to that plaza abandoned. Over at the Airport Shopping Plaza the 40,000 square foot Filene’s Basement remains vacant and thestorefronts where the Airport Cinema’s once thrived stand dark.
Before that Chili's left, and the town in its wisdom turned that property into an anti-pedestrian park - just try to get there alive.
Then we come to the 23,000 square foot store that Berkshire Development constructed for Circuit City just in time for them to back out as the company struggled for survival.
The long term vacancies of Filene’s Basement and the Circuit City building attest to the difficulties of filling spaces of that particular size and configuration. Fortunately, both Wal-Mart and Target recently unveiled future expansion plans that include stores in the 20,000 to 30,000 square foot range.
In October Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. announced plans for 30 to 40 of its planned 185 to 205 new U.S. stores to be of a smaller format. Some of these new Wal-Mart’s will be of less than 30,000 square feet andfocused on smaller, more densely-populated communities.
When Wal-Mart occupied the former Bradlee’s inFalmouth a decade ago the chain may have mis-gauged the geography of Cape Cod. Any Cape Codder knows that few people from the Lower Cape will go to Falmouthfor anything including a Wal-Mart. It’s often difficult to getthem past Hyannis. Indeed, folks from Falmouth aren’t likely to sojournto Orleans to shop at TJ Maxx, either. While the Wal-Mart in Falmouth is asuccess, the chain would find fertile ground on Route 132 in Hyannis.
Similarly, the traditional Target store runs between125,000 and 200,000 square feet. In September Target announced its City Targetconcept for small-format stores in urban and densely populated areas.
Another big consumer draw right now would be anApple retail store. With the nearest Apple store in Hingham, perhaps the Capeis ready to buy their iPhone, iPods and iPad’s right from the source atlong last. According to ifo.applestore.com the typical Apple retail store is in the 3,000 to 6,000 square foot range, withsome growing as large as 20,000 square feet.
While the national chains enjoy infamous difficultyin attempting to build new stores on Cape Cod, it would be quite difficult toprevent them from occupying a pre-existing retail space, especially in the caseof the brand new, regulator-vetted Circuit City building.
Perhaps the future of Route 132 lies in thesenational brands. A Wal-Mart “Neighborhood Market” would fit verywell in the Circuit City building. Target could do a lot worse than the spacesat the Airport Shopping Plaza or the Festival. Half of the Borders store wouldmake a very attractive Apple store, perhaps with the half where the café waslocated serving as a “Royal Discount” type of bargain bookstore,selling remainders and other discounted books – anything, please God, butanother art/craft supply store.
Lest we forget, downtown Hyannis still boasts thevacant PuritanPontiac building that was originally constructed for the Mars Bargainlanddiscount chain and boasts some 50,000 square feet of space. At one time thatpart of downtown featured Mars Bargainland, First National, Stop & Shop,W.T. Grant and the very first Zayre store.
Regardless of what some at the Cape Cod Commission, CapeCod Chamber of Commerce and other scallywags may believe Cape Cod needsnational retailers. Since the demise of Bradlees’ what is moreinconvenient than trying to buy a toaster on the Lower Cape on a Sunday inMarch? One can pay full retail at a hardware store, see if the Christmas TreeShop happens to have toasters that week or trek off to Hyannis. Youcan’t even buy a $12 toaster for double that at Snows because they’reclosed on Sunday in winter.
Hyannis must maintain a solid base of nationalretailers that Cape Codders want to patronize, lest more drive right pastHyannis and on to Wareham or Plymouth. Without continued cultivation, Route132 will become just as hopeless as downtown Hyannis.
Hyannis already has two strikes against it with asurge in violent crime and degradation of its retail base on Route 132. Soonthe Cape will likely face competition from a destination resort casinosomewhere in southeastern Massachusetts.
If Route 132 does not soon restoreitself as an attractive retail center, Cape tourism will continue to sufferfrom the decline and fall of Hyannis.