Houdini Blues

Issue 14, September 2002


Welcome to this the fourteenth issue of Houdini Blues, a subzine of TAP edited by Michael Lowrey, 6903 Kentucky Derby Drive, Charlotte, NC 28215. My email address is mlowrey@infi.net or call me at (704) 569-4269. Bonus points if you catch the music reference in the subzine name.

© 2002 by Michael Lowrey. All right reserved.

Big Box Regulation

In at least two cities in North Carolina, local restrictions have been proposed recently on the design and construction of large retail stores. Unlike previous debates about such so-called "big box" stores, the issue currently often centers on the design and reuse of such buildings. In one case, a city may even require the tenant or developer to post a bond to ensure the building’s destruction if it is not used.

Big-box stores are large retail stores, generally more than 20,000 square feet in size. While perhaps the classic example of a big box is Wal-Mart, a number of other chains, such as Target, Media Play, Circuit City, K-Mart, The Sports Authority, Circuit City, Home Depot, and Lowe’s all typically operate large stores that are often sited away from traditional malls. In the case of Wal-Mart, stores can be 150,000 square feet.

Traditionally, concerns about big-box stores have focused on their immediate impact, such as additional traffic or development a new store might generate. Wal-Mart stores, because of their size and pricing structure, often generate opposition from those concerned that "locally owned" shops will be forced out of business by the new "outside" competitor.

The issues driving new regulations in Charlotte and Concord, however, have little to do with the impact of large stores when they open. Rather, it centers on what happens to these buildings at the other end of their life cycle. A 2000 report in Charlotte noted that there were more than 30 abandoned big-box stores in the city. And as Charlotte Councilwoman Nancy Carter told The Charlotte Observer, "It hurts the economy. It hurts the neighbors. It scares people away."

The problem with large empty stores primarily come from three causes: demographic changes, the changing nature of retailing, and constraints on reuse:

• Many of the unused large-store sites in Charlotte are concentrated along Independence Boulevard and Freedom Drive in areas that have experienced large-scale demographic change. The east Charlotte neighborhoods surrounding Independence Boulevard and nearby Eastland Mall, for example, have changed from middle-class suburbia to immigrant communities, with obvious effects on the disposable income and tastes that nearby stores must cater to. The movie theater in Eastland Mall has just reopened to feature Spanish-language films after being shuttered for several years. Seeing empty retail space is hardly a surprise in this environment.

• Retailing is a changing industry. What is popular today may not be popular in the future. Once dominant chains, like K-Mart, can diminish in importance and even face bankruptcy as the market changes. This can result in empty big boxes.

• A third factor is anti-reuse clauses in lease agreements. In real estate, of course, location is critical. A merchandiser with a favorable but small location may move to a new site, close the old store but continue to rent on the old location to deny the site to potential competitors.

In Concord, the city council just formally adopted restrictions on new stores over 20,000 square feet. To give buildings more "character," uninterrupted exterior facades cannot exceed 150 feet. In addition, at least every 30 feet exterior walls must change in color, texture, or materials, or have an architectural feature. Each store must also have at least two features to enhance its appearance, such as a patio or seating area, a kiosk area, water feature, tower clock, plaza with benches, window shopping walkway, transportation center, or outdoor playground area. Architectural sketches must also show how the building could be reused by either a single user or multiple tenants.

In Charlotte, the big-box issue is being addressed through the rezoning process. As virtually all new large retail developments require rezoning approval, city planning officials has enormous power to shape future projects. While the city council, ultimately approves or rejects rezoning requests, planning staff recommendation weigh heavily in the process. Planning officials in Charlotte are now recommending that future big-box stores be part of a mix-use development with other stores, and offices, and perhaps even apartments.

In addition, the planning office is also requiring a "demolition bond" for future big-box store. The developer would be required to ensure, either by posting a bond or placing money in escrow, that funds are available to tear down a big-box store if it should stay empty for some specified length of time.

As with all regulations, the restrictions on big-box stores come at a price. The extra cost of a prettier building or a demolition bond are out-of-pocket expenses to developers and retailers and are, at least in part, passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices or reduced competition.

Retailers, for example, might be tempted to locate outside Charlotte, where costs are lower. When asked by The Charlotte Observer about this, Charlotte Planning Director Martin Cramton said, "My attitude is, let them go someplace else." Crampton noted that Charlotte had such a large area in its planning jurisdiction — about 380 square miles — that it would be difficult for those wanting to serve the Charlotte market without being subject to its zoning regulations.

Peresviet • Outpost

Turn 10

1. HAL (Partridge) buys a Titanium Factory (MWa) and the population to man it (Or4, Or1).

2. HICK (Hood) opens the bidding on the Orbital lab, which MMC wins for 78 (Re13, Re12, Ti11, Ti9, Ti8, Wa9, Wa8, Wa7, Wa6). HICK buys a Titanium Factory (MWa) and the population to man it (Ti10).

3. MMC (Brosius) now passes.

4. HBDC (Wilson) buys a Water Factory (Wa9, Wa5, Wa5, Or1) and transfers population to it.

5. Vince’s Angina (Lutterbie) opens the bidding on a Warehouse and wins it for 25 (Ti7, Ti7, Wa7, discount)

6. Bartertown (York) passes.

7. Major Tom (Conlon) passes

Turn 11

1. HAL (Partridge) buys a Titanium Factory (MWa) and two population (Ti10).

2. MMC (Brosius) MMC opens the bidding on and wins for 30 Ecoplants (Mi15, Ti11, Or4) and immediately buys two cheap population to man various plants (Ti11).

3. HICK (Hood) opens the bidding on an Outpost which Major Tom wins for 102 (Ti13, Ti12, Ti10, Ti8, Wa8, Wa7, Wa7, Wa6, Wa6, Wa6, Or2, discount). HICK opens bidding on and wins for 100 the second Outpost (Ti13, Ti13, Ti11, Ti11, Ti7, MWa, discount). HICK also buys population (Ti10).

4. Vince’s Angina (Lutterbie) opens the bidding on and wins for 50 (Ti12, Ti10, Ti7, Wa6, Wa5, Or4, Or3, Or3).

5. HBDC (Wilson) opens the bidding on a Laboratory and wins it for 82 (Wa9, Wa9, Wa7, Wa7, Wa6, Wa6, Wa6, Wa5, Or5, Or2, discount)

6. Bartertown (York) opens the bidding on ands for 80 a Laboratory (Wa9, Wa9, Wa9, Wa7, Wa6, Wa6, Or3, Or1 discount)

7. Major Tom now passes.

Turn 12

1. MMC (Brosius) opens the bidding on Ecoplants and wins them for 30 (Re14, Ti9, Wa7). MMC then opens the bidding on an Orbital Lab, which Vince’s Angina wins for 75 (Ti13, Ti11, Ti11, Ti10, Ti9, Ti7, Ti 7, Wa7. MMC then opens the bidding on the second Orbital Lab, which it wins for 64 (Re13, Ti12, Ti12, Ti7, Wa9, Wa8, Or3).

2. HICK (Hood) opens the bidding at 100 on the Outpost and wins it (Ti13, Ti13, Ti11, Ti10, Ti8, MWa, discount).

3. HAL (Partridge) buys a Titanium Factory (MWa) and the population to man it (Or2, Or2, Or2).

4. HBDC (Wilson) opens the bidding on the Laboratory and wins if for 87 (Re 16, Wa9, Wa9, Wa8, Wa8, Wa6, Wa6, Wa5, discount). HBDC also buys population (Wa5, Or5).

5. Vince’s Angina (Lutterbie) now passes

6. Major Tom (Conlon) buys a Titanium Factory (Ti13, Wa9, Wa8) and four population (Ti12, Ti11, Ti11, Wa8).

7. Bartertown (York) opens the bidding and wins for 50 Robots (Re 16, Wa9, Wa8, Wa7, Wa6, Wa4).

Turn 13

1. MMC (Brosius) opens the bidding on Ecoplants and wins them for 35 (Ti9, Ti9, Wa7, Wa6, Or3, Or1).

2. HICK (Hood) opens the bidding on Scientists and wins them for 50 (Ti13, Ti9, Ti9, Wa8, Wa7, Wa4). HICK also buys two population (Ti10, Ti10).

3. HAL (Partridge) opens the bidding on Scientists and wins them for 50 (Ti8, Ti7, Wa5, MWa).

4. HBDC (Wilson) buys two Research Factories (Re12, Wa10, Wa10, Wa8, Wa8, Wa7, Wa5) and transfers population to them.

5. Vince’s Angina (Lutterbie) buys a Titanium Factory (Ti12, Ti9, Wa9) and two robots (Ti10, Wa8, Or2).

6. Major Tom (Conlon) buys a Titanium Factory (Ti9, Wa9, Wa6, Wa5, Or1) and transfers population to it.

7. Bartertown (York) opens the bidding on and wins for 80 the Laboratory (Re16, Wa9, Wa7, Wa7, Wa6, Wa6).

Purchase order: MMC, HICK, HAL, HBDC, Vince’s Angina, Bartertown, Major Tom

Notes: HAL takes a MegaWater card. Vince’s Angina and HICK take MegaTitanium cards.

Upgrades Available: Moon Base (200), 2 Planetary Cruiser (160), 2 Robots (50), Orbital Lab (50), Warehouse (25). (New deliveries: a Planetary Cruiser, 2 Robots, and an Orbital Lab).

Not Yet Delivered: 5 Moon, 4 Planetary Cruiser, 6 Space Station, 2/3 Outpost, 1/2 Ecoplants, 1/2 Laboratories, 1/2 Robots, 1/2 Orbital Labs, 2/3 Scientists







OrF, OrF, WaF, WaF, 3 x TiF

HE, No, Sc, OL, OL, EP, EP, EP



OrF, OrF, 4 x WaF, 4 x TiF

Wa, He, No, Sc, OP, OP



OrF, OrF, 4 x WaF, 3 x TiF

HE, No, No, Sc, EP



OrF, OrF, 2 x WaF, 4 x WaF, 2 x ReF

DL, DL, Wa, No, La, La


Vince’s Angina

OrF, OrF, WaF, WaF, 4 x TiF

Wa, HE, No, OL, Ro


Bartertown IV

OrF, OrF, Wa, 3 x WaF

DL, DL, DL, HE, Ro, La, La


Major Tom

OrF, OrF, WaF, WaF, WaF, 4 x TiF

Wa, HE, OP




Welcome to Hellmouth Spring 1904












bel, bre, lpl, mar, par, por, spa




ber, den, hol, kie, lon, mun




bud, nap, rom, ser, tri, tun, ven, vie




mos, nwy, rum, sev, stp, swe, war




ank, bul, con, smy



Deadline: Fall 1904 orders are due September 24.

GM: Michael Lowrey (mlowrey@infi.net)

Austria David Hood (David_Hood@w3link.com)

A Ser r otb. F Gre-Ion

England Hank Alme (almehj@swcp.com)

F Lpl r otb. F Nth-Lon (d, nwg, ska, yor, otb)

France David Partridge (rebhuhn@rocketmail.com)

Build F Bre. F Bre-Mid, A Spa H, A Bel H, A Bur German A Tyl-Mun, F Iri-Cly, F Eng S German F Lon-Nth, A Lpl-Edi

Germany Jim Burgess (burgess@world.std.com)

F Hel S F Lon-Nth, F Lon-Nth, A Den-Swe, A Ber-Sil, A Tyl-Mun, A Hol H

Italy Phil Reynolds (preyno@yahoo.com)

Build A Ven, F Rom. A Ser S F Ion-Gre (d, alb, otb), F Ion-Gre, F Eas-Aeg (d, arm, otb), F Rom-Tyn, F Tyn-Ion, A Ven-Tri, A Bud S A Vie, A Vie S A Bud

Russia Pat Conlon (aparrotlaughsat40@msn.com)

A Rum-Ser, A Gal-Bud, F Bla-Rum, A Sil-Boh, F Nwg-Nat, F Nwy S Eng F Nth (otm), F Swe H

Turkey Matt Sundstrom (Matt.Sundstrom@bbdoch.com)

Build F Smy. F Smy-Eas, F Aeg S F Smy-Eas, F Con S F Aeg, A Bul S Russian A Rum-Ser

Press: Constantinople-Moscow: Throwing in with you is the only thing that makes any sense. Once that made sense, the fleet made sense. Hope it still makes sense to you?

Turkey-Italy: Might we be friends this turn? Maybe Austria is out of his misery?

Turkey-France: Let your nerves be frazzled, it’s good for you.

Southern Observer-France/Germany: I hope you hold it together for another year. You have a big fan down here!

A Silesia-A Berlin: Hope this helps secure peace between us.

Russia-France: You don’t really need to be in NAO just to eliminate the Englander.

Italy-All: What a nerve-wracking turn for submitting orders! I bet things will be much clearer once we get the results....

Phil- Pat: Thanks for joining and making this game even wackier!