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Posted: Monday, 16 September 2013 9:04AM

Costco latest 'Big Box' for Orleans



New Orleans officials are hoping that Saturday's opening of a new Costco Wholesale store on busy Carrollton Avenue will help slow the flow of sales tax dollars to neighboring Jefferson Parish.

Costco is part of a string of "big-box" style retailers and chain stores that have either opened, are under construction or are planned for New Orleans.

Wal-Mart is building two stores in the city. A Whole Foods Market is nearing completion. And the new "Mid-City Market" development houses a Winn-Dixie. In the Algiers neighborhood next year, a Petco, a Ross clothing store and a Mattress Firm will open.

"Any of us who grew up here know that we have spent our lives going to Jefferson for a lot of our shopping," Councilwoman Susan Guidry told, The Advocate. "It is very exciting to think of the people from the suburban parishes coming into New Orleans."

All told, the major retail projects expected to be completed by the end of 2014 add up to 1.5 billion square-feet of new development, according to the New Orleans Business Alliance.

City officials believe those additions and others will pump long-lost sales tax revenue into New Orleans. Costco, some think, could also send a good number of suburban shoppers back into the city looking for deals, as it is the retailer's first store in the region.

Sales tax collections in Jefferson Parish have long surpassed those in New Orleans.

Last year, for example, Jefferson generated $310.7 million in sales taxes, excluding taxes generated from the sale of food and drugs, automobiles and hotel and motel rooms in the parish. Orleans Parish brought in just $162.9 million, but that includes every category, meaning the gap between the two parishes is even greater.

Over the five-year period from 2008 to 2012, Jefferson's haul was nearly double that of New Orleans in comparing the same two figures.

Big-box retailers and chains have historically set up shop on the outskirts of city centers, where large parcels of land are in long supply.

"What you saw in the last several decades was a trend in retail nationally to create investment in suburbs," said Aimee Quirk, an adviser to Mayor Mitch Landrieu on economic development. "And so there wasn't as much opportunity in the city core."

According to a study commissioned by the New Orleans Business Alliance, New Orleans residents spent about $1.9 billion on retail goods outside of Orleans Parish in 2012.

The Business Alliance proposes that if city residents had access to more stores, they'd spend money closer to home.

"A lot of that has just been because those goods and services are not available in Orleans Parish," said Brenda Canada, director of retail attraction for the Business Alliance.

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