November 08, 2012The East Greensboro Parity Study is full of fundamental errors. The city paid Red Rock Global, headed by Michael Tabb, $90,000 to conduct the study.
The stated goal of the study was to determine the need and potential for retail development in a defined area of east Greensboro compared to other parts of the city.
However, numerous errors regarding the size, location and type of shopping centers and other businesses in Greensboro, as well as the interpretation of sales revenue, render the study's conclusion – that there is an underserved demand for retail in east Greensboro – unreliable.
President of Kotis Properties Marty Kotis is keenly aware of the problems with the study that includes some of his shopping centers. According to Kotis the recommendations and conclusions in the study do not follow from the data, much of which is simply wrong in the first place.
The report's "Inventory of Shopping Centers" describes Palmer Plaza shopping center as 605,920 square feet, but according to Kotis, who owns the building, it is actually around 80,000 square feet. Palmer Plaza is also described as being anchored by a Food Lion grocery store, but it's actually anchored by a Save-A-Lot grocery store.
Market Street Plaza, at 3932 West Market St., is listed as being in east Greensboro but is in west Greensboro.
One of Kotis' shopping centers in west Greensboro, Westover Gallery of Shops, is counted three times.
Even more embarrassing, the list of Greensboro shopping centers includes Spring Lane Galleria; a Kotis-owned shopping center that is in Sanford, North Carolina.
The format of the list has oddities and discrepancies as well. The square footage of the shopping centers appears estimated, with a minimum and maximum column for each. For a shopping center identified as Wendover Ridge shopping center, the minimum size is 100,000 square feet and maximum size is 0 square feet.
Many of the 93 shopping centers listed are given in broad ranges. Over half are said to be between 50,000 square feet and 100,000 square feet; others as between 100,000 square feet and 250,000 square feet. Jefferson Village shopping center is listed as between 100,000 square feet and 500,000 square feet.
In the list of eight east Greensboro shopping centers, the owners are listed for six, but left out for two, including Bessemer Shopping Center, which is owned by the city of Greensboro. The other is identified as "English Market" and said to be anchored by a Food Lion and a Family Dollar. The address given is simply "Family Dollar."
Much of the data used by the study, including retail space and demographics, was collected for Red Rock Global by Colliers International, a company in Charlotte.
According to Senior Vice-President of Collier Mike Neal, his company purchased the data about Greensboro from Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), a national vendor out of Redlands, California.
The study's methodology and assessment of retail demand is also flawed, according to Kotis.
The parity study divides Greensboro into 11 circular "trade areas" of varying sizes.
The trade areas vary widely in size to keep the population in each area the same as the population of the east Greensboro "study area." That area defined by the study is a roughly rectangular section of the city containing 37,925 people.
The study area is to the east of downtown, roughly centered on NC A&T State University and stretching south from Cone Boulevard to I-40/I-85.
Kotis said that in a city like Greensboro, factoring in drive times to destination areas would be more informative than simple bubbles, the sizes of which are determined to get a certain population.
The rings employed in the parity study gloss over the constraints of roads and highways, which can affect where someone chooses to spend money.
One of the main conclusions of the parity study is that east Greensboro residents spend a disproportionate amount of their income on retail in the area, and so could support more retail development. The study draws this conclusion by comparing average household income to retail sales in the area
However, Kotis points out that under retail sales the study includes sales by motor vehicle parts dealers, automotive dealers and gas sales, as well as food, drink and other products.
There are several car dealerships in the east Greensboro study area, but their customer base is not restricted to the people in their immediate vicinity, since people are generally willing to drive longer distances for items like cars than they are for groceries or clothing.
The study also lists restaurants that the city should look into bringing to Greensboro. However, many of them are already in the area, have pulled out of North Carolina or have no presence in North Carolina, or cater to areas with higher incomes than the average east Greensboro resident.
One of the restaurants in the list is Bubba Gump Shrimp, which, according to Kotis, services areas with high tourist traffic like Las Vegas.
Cantina Laredo is also on the list, and is one of the most expensive Mexican restaurants in the market.
Mellow Mushroom is listed but they are already in downtown Greensboro, and east Greensboro is well within their market area, even though the study area has been drawn to exclude the restaurant.
The parity study also lists Sonic as a restaurant the city should pursue, even though there is already one in the east Greensboro study area.
The parity study touches on encouraging hotels, without any data in the study indicating what those hotels would do for retail in east Greensboro.
The study includes an inventory of hotels currently in Greensboro, but, like the shopping center inventory, this list contains errors and flaws. For one, hotels of widely varying quality are categorized together.
The O. Henry Hotel and Proximity Hotel with rooms ranging from $209 to $409 per night are both categorized simply as "independents." The lower quality Rainbow Motel, which charges $45 per night for a two-bed room, is also categorized as independent.
The list also includes Greensboro Inn, which closed in June.
The study does not include any concrete data on traffic problems, but makes numerous suggestions for road construction. Suggestions include extending Lincoln Street to Tuscaloosa Street and extending East Florida Street to McConnell Road.
Another recommendation is to have East Friendly Avenue and East Market Street merge into a roundabout east of the intersection of East Market Street and North Murrow Boulevard, with no concrete data to indicate how that will improve traffic.
Tabb, the study's author, declined to comment on the study.
Greensboro Mayor Robbie Perkins, who gave the parity study a glowing endorsement at the East Greensboro Mayor's Summit, said he was aware of errors in the report but that they are correctable and the recommendations are still correct. "This isn't an exact science," said Perkins.