The plan submitted to the Salem Planning Board would demolish the present Walmart and construct another building about 50 percent larger, with 611 parking spaces. The Lowe's facility would encompass 153,000 square feet, including a garden center. It would have 378 parking spaces.First off, the Kennedy Development Group is full of it. They can spout all the numbers they like, but until they talk about the costs, no one else should give them the time of day. The fact of the matter is the Big Box stores like Wal-Mart and Lowe's don't actually create new jobs or tax revenue, they just cannibalize what's already there in the economy, sucking it up from the small businesses and spitting it out to national and international investors and stock holders.
Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll has been supportive of the project that the Everett-based Kennedy Development Group claims will create 105 new jobs and produce $225,000 in annual tax revenue. Aspects of the project were first proposed publicly over two years ago and informally for nearly two decades, at least where Salem's need for a new municipal water tower are concerned.
We know this now and we've known it for a pretty long time. That Mayor Driscoll never questions these kinds of things is a big mistake for Salem.
None of this is to say Mayor Driscoll doesn't have her strong points -- she's eminently approachable, kind and she gets out there. I can speak from experience on that. She's done lots to make the symbiotic relationship that exists between Salem and Salem State work best for both parties. Salem's been doing well over the past few years and I have no doubt she deserves a lot of the credit.
However, for whatever reason, she's unapologetic about her support for Big Boxes seemingly all over the place, many of which will compete with Salem's hugely important small business community. If she keeps at it, it's these sorts of things which could kill the uber-cool Downtown Salem. It seems like she's stuck somewhere between the '80s and '90s when it comes to this issue -- don't we know better by now? Shouldn't she?