Deborah Salon and colleagues report: Can a big-box store improve sustainability?

Davis, California, has gone to great lengths to avoid sprawl. Multi-family housing is distributed throughout the city, neighborhood shopping centers are within a short bike ride, and the city’s public spaces have been designed to help promote its downtown businesses.  So when the Target Corporation proposed opening a store in Davis, many of the residents voiced outrage.

When the store’s construction was approved, ASU professor Deborah Salon and colleagues – who at the time were affiliated with the University of California Davis -- realized this was an ideal opportunity for a before-and-after study. 

How opening did the new store impact the shopping and travel patterns of the local residents?  What did this new box store mean for local businesses? And what could it mean for a city’s goals of sustainability?

Read their findings in a newly-published report, The First Big-Box Store in Davis, by Susan L. Handy, Kristin Lovejoy, Gian-Claudia Sciara, Deborah Salon, and Patricia L. Mokhtarian. 

The report appears in Access Magazine, a free-to-access publication whose goal is to translate academic research into readable prose that’s useful for policymakers and planners. 

The original research report, published in the Journal of Transportation and Land Use in 2013, is Measuring the impacts of local land-use policies on vehicle miles of travel: The case of the first big-box store in Davis, California.

“The specific findings for Davis don’t apply to every community,” explained Salon, “but they support the general proposition that bringing retail destinations closer to residences could help reduce vehicle travel.  The study also offers insights into the challenges of conducting before-and-after studies of the impact of local land-use changes.”