May 16, 2007
The little big box: Planners prefer trend toward smaller chain storesBy Brian

Just as town planners have lobbied to help prevent a 75,000-plus-square-foot store from coming to Andover, two of the biggest names in big-box retail have decided to change their game plan.

A zoning bylaw amendment passed at last month’s Town Meeting will limit businesses in the town’s 70-acre mixed-use district to 65,000 square feet in size. But this year, both Wal-Mart and Home Depot have moved forward with plans to build more stores as small as 40,000 square feet.

The vote at Town Meeting, which affects Shawsheen Plaza, was proposed in part to discourage a so-called big-box like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe’s or Target from setting up shop in town, said Planning Board Director Paul Salafia.

“There are examples all over the country of small towns that have been hurt by large big-box shopping centers,” Salafia said. “They have multiple departments, many of which are represented downtown. … It really hurts the downtown area.”

There are no current plans for a big-box retailer to come to Andover, according to planning officials. While the 65,000-square-foot zoning limitation will prevent a superstore from coming to Shawsheen Plaza, which makes up the majority of commercial space in the mixed-use district, smaller big-box stores would not be prevented from moving in under zoning bylaw.

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