New Walmart Supercenter opens Friday


Associates gather outside a new Walmart Supercenter during an employee appreciation event on Tuesday in Gainesville. The Walmart Supercenter, located at 5700 NW 23rd Street and scheduled to open on Friday at 8 a.m., will have a full grocery section and a vision center.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 5:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 7:13 a.m.

"... What's that spell?"

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Associates gather outside a new Walmart Supercenter during an employee appreciation event on Tuesday in Gainesville. The Walmart Supercenter, located at 5700 NW 23rd Street and scheduled to open on Friday at 8 a.m., will have a full grocery section and a vision center.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun

"Walmart! …"

And with that cheer led by store manager Kami Tate, employees and their families toured the new Walmart Supercenter as part of Associate Appreciation Night on Tuesday.

The new store opens Friday after a 7:30 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony at 5700 NW 23rd St., across from the Senior Recreation Center on Northwest 34th Street near U.S. 441. It will be open 24/7 thereafter.

The grand opening included product samplings and giveaways, an appearance by University of Florida cheerleaders and mascots, and a race simulator.

Walmart considers the store a relocation since it will follow the closing Thursday of the store at 2649 NW 13th St., the first Gainesville location for the world's largest retailer when it opened in 1983.

"Here we are 30 years later, to be able to locate in this beautiful, brand new Supercenter building. What a great feeling. What a great accomplishment for us," Tate said.

As a Supercenter, the new store includes a full line of groceries and will include a Vision Center, as well as general merchandise in more than 30 departments.

It also includes a Subway restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, a Da Vi Nail salon, SmartStyle family hair salon, a game arcade and a garden center.

The store has approximately 300 employees, including transfers from the 13th Street store and about 100 new employees, according to Tate.

The average wage of a full-time Walmart employee in Florida is $12.72 hourly, Walmart said in a news release.

"I think that the community around us is going to be very supportive of your new store and the growth that we've added to Gainesville," said Jill Thrasher, market manager.

The store is 170,200 square feet compared to 103,000 square feet at the 13th Street store. The Supercenter off Waldo Road is 207,000 square feet.

Walmart's attempts to build a store in the north part of Gainesville has been in the works for more than 10 years.

City commissioners twice turned down plans to build on land that is now occupied by Home Depot, citing environmental concerns. Commissioners later turned down Walmart's offer to trade that location for part of Northside Park.

The Gainesville Development Review Board originally turned down the current location in 2009 before approving revised plans in 2010 that moved the main building closer to Northwest 34th and 23rd streets and added a third outparcel. In moving the building closer to the roads, Walmart said it had to reduce the size of the Supercenter it originally planned for the site in order to fit on a narrower portion of the property.

In the meantime, the board approved plans for the Supercenter off Waldo Road, which opened in 2008 to widespread support as a boost to east Gainesville.

The three outparcel properties on the roads surrounding the new store are listed for sale by the Shopping Center Group of Orlando.

The relocation is expected to change the fortunes of the affected neighborhoods, including the Northwood Village Shopping Center that has struggled since Winn-Dixie left around 2000.

The area has already seen changes with the opening of the Senior Recreation Center a year ago and ABC Fine Wine and Spirits rebuilding its store and a new retail building next to it.

At the 13th Street store, local business people have expressed concern that other businesses in the vicinity will leave. The area already has several large vacancies.

As part of Tuesday's ceremony, Walmart provided grants to four local organizations: $1,000 to Bread of the Mighty Food Bank; $500 to Rebuilding Together, which provides home repairs to the elderly and disabled; and $250 each to Gainesville High School and VFW Post 2811.

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