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What to do with “empty boxes”

Biz reporter Sean Adkins recently wrote a story about York County’s “big box” dilemma, in which we have an awful lot of large-scale retail space sitting empty.

Some examples, and I’m sure you can come up with more:

– The old Circuit City in Springettsbury Township
– The former Giant next to the mall in West Manchester Township
– The previous Linens N Things in The Crossroads in Manchester Township

After many jokes with my husband – who suggests we put a “zombie laser tag” game where the Giant used to be – I have come up with what I think is a decent idea for the space.

Why not turn it into a farmers’ market? Many of you know that my family, for years, had baked-goods and candy stands in the Market & Penn Farmers Market.

And while I love the market – and its historic old building – there are a lot of “downs.” Some people, whether fairly or unfairly, don’t want to visit the city to shop. It’s always been terribly hard to park in the market’s lot when it’s busy. And the building, while a treasure of history, has needed a new roof since before I was born – and it’s not exactly a wonder of modern air-conditioning, either. (Try selling chocolates there in the summer – ugh!)

And don’t get me started on the city’s rules for selling home-cooked food. I fully support the concept of a clean place for food preparation, but from personal experience, there are some technicalities – like, say, needing two completely separate kitchens in your home – that used to be in place that made it nearly impossible for a small business to succeed. I’m not up to date on the current rules, so I can only hope some of this has changed.

Anyway, off that soapbox. Back to the old Giant building.

Assuming it wasn’t totally gutted, it would have setups for deli and produce departments, as well as for a seafood vendor. A small luncheonette/restaurant could use the former “cafe” area. Other vendors could fill the center, with neat aisles.

Add in the good lighting, the modern ventilation system, and nice restrooms, and it definitely seems like somewhere I’d spend my time. It’s on the bus route, too – so anyone who, say, is used to shopping in the city because they don’t have a car, could get here by way of bus! (And if you do drive – there’s certainly plenty of parking!)

As an aside, this is an idea that was tried – with mixed success – a bit north of here. For a time, there was a former big-box store in the Colonial Park area near Harrisburg that had been made into a market, and we were vendors there, too. The down-side, besides the somewhat lengthy commute, was the higher stand rent. Hey, that air-conditioning system came at a price!

So do you think a farmers’ market could work in the old Giant building? I’m really interested in what you have to say.

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