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Ed Kohler: Target’s green ambitions should be bigger

Target Corporation recently announced plans to become a greener company through a combination of supply chain efficiencies, store designs, and waste stream tactics. They’re great goals that should have a significant impact on the environment, considering Target’s size.

If Target manages to reduce their landfill waste by 15%, gas emissions by 10%, and water usage by 10% over the next 10 years, I’ll be impressed. However, I think Target should think bigger.

Target may be able to have an even bigger impact on the environment if they cut down the average transportation costs of visitors to their stores. Here is the issue: While it may be possible to stick 10% more on the trucks heading to Target stores, thus reducing trips and spewing less carbon to stock a store, transportation from the stores to homes remains a larger environmental cost.

Target is already fairly efficient at getting stuff from China to their stores. That’s because there is both an environmental AND financial benefit to doing this efficiently due to savings on fuel, trucks, and labor.

Target doesn’t pay for the fuel, cars, and labor involved in getting their products to your home, so the environmental cost of delivering products the last few miles from China goes unaccounted for at Target.

How could Target change this, and do so in a way that would help them both environmentally and financially? Build condos in their parking lots.

Take a look at the Target store on Lake Street at Hiawatha in Minneapolis for an example of how this could be done. Here is, approximately, how much land they have, between the store’s footprint, driveways for trucks, and parking for customers:

Target Store on East Lake Street

The southeast corner of their vast parking lot is, essentially, an asphalt wasteland in the middle of the city of Minneapolis.

Unused Parking Space at Target

Environmentally, that big piece of pavement isn’t helping anyone. However, what if a condo was sitting on that land? For example, I think the Cobalt Condominium building in NE would fit into that spot:

Cobalt Condominiums in NE Minneapolis

Cobalt is a 10 story building with 107 units ranging in size from 866 to 4,228 square feet. That would increase the number of Target shoppers within walking distance by 250 or more. And, they wouldn’t be just any Target shoppers. These would be people who would truly rely upon Target for daily trips for things like milk and eggs, pharmacy, etc.

That location would be a serious draw for people interested in walking to the ultimate in big box retail, a wide variety of excellent restaurants, and many transit options including the LRT.

Were Target to make this urban store less suburban, by bringing their customers to their doorstep, they could lower the carbon footprint of their average customer while simultaneously benefiting financially.

By the way, another place to look for inspiration is Edina. The Westin Galleria is a 446,000 sq ft building with 225 hotel rooms and 82 condos. They even built underground access to the Galleria shopping center next to Southdale, making it very easy for residents and guests to lighten their wallets without the need to drive. This happens to be across the street from a Target store, which surely profits from people walking to their store from the nearby condos and hotel rooms.

To be clear, I’m not saying that Target should build Target branded condos. I’d just like to see them make better use of their parking lots in a way that should benefit both Target and the environment by creating a living situation that’s appealing to many of their customers.

This post was written by Ed Kohler and originally published on The Deets. Follow Ed on Twitter: @edkohler.

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