Another local target of post-Kelo eminent domain abuse (and also pre-Kelo eminent domain abuse, I might add) is the International Plaza shopping mall in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
By my rough estimate, the whole mall covers about 12 acres, including the service areas. If you check out this Google Map of International Plaza you’ll see the main mall surrounding the parking lot in the center, with a little strip mall wing on its west side.
This all seems a bit unusual, doesn’t it? I would have thought a shopping mall much more likely to be the cause of eminent domain abuse rather than the victim. How did things turn out this way?
A very nicely done Chicago Sun-Times article by Abdon M. Pallasch, David Roeder and Eric Herman gives a bit of the story:
The village of Arlington Heights wants to acquire International Plaza, a complex at 120 Golf Road, and replace it and neighboring parcels with a SuperTarget. With more than 40 stores and few vacancies, the plaza is mostly leased to businesses owned by Korean families. The village has reasoned it can draw more tax revenue from a SuperTarget, but has found the plaza’s owner, Su-Chuan Hsu, unwilling to sell.
A tenant at the plaza, Gary Mednicov, owner of Garibaldi’s pizza, said he believes the village will try to force the sale once it completes a contract for a SuperTarget.
“I feel I have no choice, but I think what Arlington Heights is doing is wrong,” he said. “Some of the people started the businesses there from nothing.”
International Plaza isn’t the nicest mall in Arlington Heights, but it’s managed to attract a number of national chain stores, including Blockbuster Video, Tuesday Morning, and an Eileen Fisher Outlet Store.
Other stores include the Garibaldi’s Restaurant mentioned in the quote above, Oak Creations, an XSport Gym, and an Elly’s Pancake House:
(By the way, most of my pictures were taken on a cloudy morning about half an hour after the mall opened, so don’t make too much of the empty parking lot.)
To be fair, I should mention that about a half dozen of the storefronts appear empty, including a large internet cafe and a corner clothing store.
On the other hand, here’s a salon that just opened:
Unfortunately, I don’t think this newly-opened Xotic Skin & Nail salon will help the mall avoid the “blighted” designation. From what I’ve been reading, when it comes to eminent domain and urban renewal, these types of businesses just don’t count. They’re not the right types of businesses.
You see a lot of this in urban renewal. The powers-that-be will brag about how they brought a new big-box store to the city, or created a revitalize city center with a movie theater, a Borders books, a Starbucks, and 25 luxury condominiums. They won’t mention all the low-volume little businesses that were driven out by the renewal.
If this was a city neighborhood that was targeted for renewal, you’d expect to see muffler shops, laundries, and appliance repair stores. A suburban mall like International Plaza doesn’t have those kinds of places, but it’s still got the nail salons, hair stylists, video stores, travel agencies, and currency exchanges so prevalent in areas slated for redevelopment:
In the calculus of eminent domain and urban renewal, businesses like these simply don’t count. They’re the wrong kind of business, so their loss is considered unimportant. In part, this is just the normal human failure to give due consideration to circumstances of others.
This failure is always more pronounced when the others come from a different culture or are from a different race. I think it’s no coincidence that International Plaza and many of its shops are owned by Asians.
The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University has an archived copy of a nice Chicago Daily Herald article by Corrie Cutrer about International Plaza.
I also have a much larger collection of photographs of International Plaza.