Wal-Mart wants to construct superstore at 53rd Avenue


Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 at 12:11 a.m.
Wal-Mart said Tuesday it wants to build a supercenter in northwest Gainesville that would anchor a 93.5-acre development of stores, restaurants and homes about two miles north of its current store on NW 13th Street.
If Wal-Mart's plans are approved by the city, the retail giant would open a 192,000-square-foot store and supermarket at the intersection of NW 53rd Avenue and NW 13th Street, and close its store at 2649 NW 13th St.
Gainesville city officials and residents near the proposed site began receiving notices this week from Wal-Mart about a neighborhood meeting to be held Jan. 28 about plans for the supercenter.
Wal-Mart Community Affairs Manager Daphne Moore said plans for the supercenter are still being formed, and development plans haven't even been submitted to the city.
"It's all very preliminary right now," she said.
Moore said Wal-Mart would sell or lease its current NW 13th Street store to another retailer. Sam's Club, which is owned by Wal-Mart, would remain at its current location next door at 2801 NW 13th St., she said.
The supercenter would include a full grocery store with a deli, bakery, produce, frozen foods, and meat and dairy sections.
Supercenters have wider aisles, ceilingskylights and offer more brands than the standard Wal-Marts, Moore said.
Standard Wal-Marts range from 40,000 to 150,000 square feet in size, she said.
"Aesthetically, the supercenters are a lot different as well. The feeling inside is much more open, and really a better shopping center," she said.
Project manager Larry Wray said plans for the development will be submitted to the city in early February. The project would include about three acres of commercial space in front of Wal-Mart and 30 acres of houses or apartments, he said.
News of Wal-Mart's proposed supercenter came the same day Kmart announced it will close its store at 2552 NW 13th St. - across from Wal-Mart - in a nationwide round of store closings and layoffs to help it emerge from bankruptcy.
Also, in that area, reconstruction of the former Pic 'n Save store site at the corner of NW 13th Street and NW 23rd Avenue is set to begin this spring, said John Hudson, who is managing the site for a Jacksonville company.
"This (site) is already on a main thoroughfare. It really doesn't depend on the larger stores attracting individuals. It captures them as they're going by anyway," he said.
Hudson said the Pic 'n Save will be converted into eight to 12 smaller stores, restaurants or offices.
"We're going after a whole different market than they are. Generally, your smaller-scale retail space and commercial space - that still has a pretty good market," he said.
At Scotty's, a home improvement store that sits across the street from the proposed Wal-Mart site, store managers said they hadn't heard about Wal-Mart's plans. But an official for the Florida chain said it would be a "fantastic" development.
"It would bring traffic to our area, so I think it would be a great move," said Lora Kellogg, vice president of marketing for Scotty's, adding she didn't consider Wal-Mart to be a competitor.
But one person's gain is another person's loss.
Keith Anderson, co-manager of Books-A-Million, said about 10 percent of his customers arrived at the plaza to shop at Wal-Mart, and come to Books-A-Million to pick up a card or newspaper they couldn't find at Wal-Mart.
"A lot of people go to Wal-Mart, and they didn't expect to shop with us," he said. "That would stink if Wal-Mart closes. We would lose sales. It would totally reduce the traffic."
Larry Cheshire, who is developing a group of office and warehouse buildings across the street from the proposed Wal-Mart site said he heard rumors about Wal-Mart's interest in the property. Cheshire owns part of the land at the southeast corner of NW 13th Street and NW 53rd Avenue.
If Wal-Mart were to build a superstore at the site, Cheshire said he would welcome the addition to the area.
"I think it's a good idea," Cheshire said. "I shop at the superstores. Having it in that area would also bring in a lot of people from High Springs and Lake Butler, since you have the access on U.S. 441. It could also bring in some people from Starke."
The neighborhood meeting will be held on Jan. 28 from 7-9:30 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, 4000 NW 53rd Ave.
Sun staff writer Joe Coombs contributed to this report. Ashley Rowland can be reached at 374-5095 or rowlana@ gvillesun.com.

What could happen

  • Wal-Mart wants to build a supercenter at the intersection of NW 53rd Avenue and NW 13th Street, and close its store at 2649 NW 13th St.
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