Wal-Mart is on schedule to start building a new store in Historic Westside Village this summer and open it in the summer of 2012, a company spokesman said.
“I haven’t seen anything that would delay us,” said Glen Wilkins, Wal-Mart’s senior manager of public affairs for the Southeast.
The opening can’t come soon enough for Jane Nho. She works in the Beauty Depot next to the future Wal-Mart, to be located at 825 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, across from the original Paschal’s restaurant.
“Wal-Mart will be good for business,” Nho said. “Wal-Mart will attract a lot of people.”
Meanwhile, Wal-Mart has no immediate plans to build a store at a site along Cascade Road, Wilkins said. The developer of that site successfully sued Fulton County in 2006 to win zoning approval for a store measuring up to 185,000 square feet.
Wal-Mart does retain an option to build at the site, located near the northwest corner of I-285 and Cascade Road, Wilkins said.
“There’s still an interest in the area and Wal-Mart is still considering it,” Wilkins said of the Cascade Road site. “No final decisions have been made. We want to make sure we understand that market.”
Jerome Russell, the developer working with Wal-Mart at the Historic Westside Village site, said the project is going “full bore.”
Russell said he expects to complete a land transaction with the city by this summer to acquire the acreage needed to build an 80,000-square-foot Wal-Mart. The new store will be nearly three times larger than the store vacated by the former tenant, a Publix grocery store.
The size of the planned Wal-Mart represents the wave of the future for Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart built successful franchise based on stores measuring about 200,000 square feet. But the company is downsizing some new stores in urban areas in the face of seven consecutive quarters of declining domestic sales.
“This really is about fitting into the community and understanding that each community is unique,” Wilkins said. “It’s also about efficiency.”
Nationally, Wal-Mart’s come-back strategy also calls for returning to its original mission of offering the lowest cost on all items, and of being a one-stop-shop for households earning $30,000 to $70,000 a year, according to an interview with Wal-Mart domestic chief William Simon, which appeared in the March 21 edition of The Wall Street Journal.
Wal-Mart’s market cap is about $189.3 billion and shares have been hovering around $52, down from about $60 in mid 2008.
Sonya Moste, spokeswoman with the Atlanta Development Authority, the city’s development arm, said the Wal-Mart will provide many more products than the now-shuttered Publix grocery store.
“It will have a pharmacy, and the residents in that area need a pharmacy,” Moste said. “The old Publix may have lost sales to stores that offered pharmacies.
“We are thrilled Wal-Mart is coming in to eliminate one of Atlanta’s far-too-many food deserts,” Moste said. “We want to do all we can to eliminate them in Atlanta.”
Russell has come full circle in developing Historic Westside Village.
Russell was one of the initial bidders to develop the city-backed site in the mid 1990s. Atlanta picked another development team, and the development fell apart because of bungling that federal authorities attributed to meddling by the administration of then-Mayor Bill Campbell.
Russell is picking up where that troubled project was halted.
Russell’s firm built a condo community that’s part of the overall Historic Westside Village project. Russell said the Wal-Mart should help boost sales of the condos, because of the proximity to a full-fledged grocery store and pharmacy. Prices have been reduced to below $80,000.
“We think the Wal-Mart will help,” Russell said. “We’re ecstatic.”