Saving Gray Space? Stop Complaining About the T.J. Maxx Expansion in Bridgehampton

T.J. Maxx in the Bridgehampton Commons
T.J. Maxx in the Bridgehampton Commons
Oliver Peterson

A proposed 17,000-square-foot expansion of T.J. Maxx to accommodate adding a Marshall’s store at the Bridgehampton Commons shopping center has been getting a lot of pushback from the community since it first came to light in 2013. In order to address this opposition to a completely reasonable proposal, the Southampton Town Planning Board has scheduled a public hearing about the expansion for 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 8 at Southampton Town Hall.

The developer, Kimco Realty, has no plans to build on additional green space, add more height to the building or adversely affect the site beyond using existing concrete sprawl. But, oh, how Hamptonites love to complain!

According to The Southampton Press, and confirmed by the developer, the expansion would convert part of T.J. Maxx’s existing 33,000 square feet, resulting in the two discount stores occupying an adjoined space—reducing T.J. Maxx to 23,987 square feet, and Marshall’s covering 21,879 square feet, with 5,424 square feet of shared space for storage and shipping needs. All additional space would be added to the back of the building, essentially squaring off the building and covering some of those existing parking spaces, which no one ever uses.

A visit to the site on Tuesday afternoon, and the Google Earth image below, both show the parking spaces are so underused that many are blocked by a pair of semi trailers which haven’t moved in quite some time. Parking stalls in front of the store were also far from congested between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday.

T.J. Maxx in Bridgehampton
T.J. Maxx in Bridgehampton, Photo: Google Earth

Still, certain members of the community—including Bridgehampton Citizen’s Advisory Committee chair Pamela Harwood, who spoke to The Southampton Press last week—can’t complain about real environmental impacts, so they’re now claiming this extra 17,000 square feet would lead to increased traffic and, as Harwood explains it, the “clogging of our main thoroughfare.” Hogwash.

At the same time, Harwood complained to The Press about the empty storefronts at the Bridgehampton Commons, including the former RadioShack and Payless ShoeSource shops directly to the left of T.J. Maxx. She even asked why the stores there are continually vacant, adding, “What about online shopping competition?”

If the stores are continually vacant and online competition is such a concern, why would we need to fear a sudden, massive influx of shoppers jamming up Montauk Highway and filling the parking lot as they desperately make their way toward Marshall’s for those inexpensive sundresses or much-needed holiday decorating essentials?

Next they’ll ask Kimco to convert empty shops into affordable housing.

Inside T.J. Maxx in Bridgehampton
Inside T.J. Maxx in Bridgehampton, Photo: Oliver Peterson

I’ll be the first to stand up against a project that will damage the fabric of our beautiful community, destroy vital and dwindling green space, or hurt the character of our hamlets and villages, but this particular plan is simply filling an empty, unused section of a pre-existing parking lot. Can anyone tell me they’ve ever parked behind T.J. Maxx or struggled to find a parking space in front of it?

Kimco will also add a rear entrance to the building so people might, for once, actually use the parking behind the store. No back door currently exists for T.J. Maxx shoppers, which is part of the reason no one parks back there. That said, covering the spots does reduce the required number (one per 1,000 square feet of retail space) of parking stalls, and Kimco wants a waiver to reduce that requirement—something they already received during the original construction.

Another waiver might seem unjust, but those of us who live here can attest that parking is never a problem at the Bridgehampton Commons. And Kimco has a plan to “land bank” parking stalls on Marders‘ land along the property line, just in case problems arise. This means that the developer reserves the right to create the spots, if necessary; though it seems highly unlikely they’ll have to use them.

Empty parking stalls behind T.J. Maxx Bridgehampton
Empty parking stalls behind T.J. Maxx Bridgehampton, Photo: Oliver Peterson

Beyond all this, who doesn’t love T.J. Maxx? And who wouldn’t want a Marshall’s? Things would be different if this plan called for new construction atop the beautiful Hampton Classic Horse Show grounds along Snake Hollow Road or a sewer runoff spilling into nearby Long Pond, but it does not. Love it or hate it, Bridgehampton Commons already exists and it’s not going away until some sort of cataclysmic, apocalyptic event causes nature to swallow it up.

As much as that day may sound appealing to some in our midst, those of us who remember the times before K-Mart and T.J. Maxx—even before Caldor—when one had to drive to Smithtown for any kind of shopping variety, the Commons was a positive step. And as long as it remains within its current borders, and no smog-belching factories get built, we’ll all be just fine.

To make your voice heard on this issue, join the Southampton Town Planning Board’s public hearing at Southampton Town Hall (116 Hampton Road) on Thursday, November 8 at 6 p.m.

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