October 18, 2010
Unlike the failed New Port condo development down the road that's now an empty plot of land overlooking Tampa Bay, Sam Walton's discount retail empire seems unfazed by the Great Recession -- and the typical citizen opposition -- as it continues to increase numbers in the Sunshine state and beyond.
There are more than 170 Supercenters in Florida alone, which doesn't include smaller neighborhood markets, Sam's Clubs and distribution centers. A Supercenter that borders the Historic Kenwood neighborhood is under construction. It's not too far from another, relatively new one in southern St. Petersburg. And the world's largest retailer is trying to build a Supercenter in Tarpon Springs where a Kmart used to be after years of working to put one in along the banks of the Anclote River. Strong citizen opposition had helped stymie that effort. The Gandy Boulevard location will employ about 300 Walmart workers where a Sticks 'N' Stuff and the Pleasure Zone Adult Supercenter were once located.
It didn't create the stir that the Anclote River site did, but some folks had concerns.
"Depending on the time of day, Gandy Boulevard is going to be backed up," said Al Steenson, president of the Gandy/Sun Bay South Civic Association, who wants the city of Tampa to mitigate effects of the extra traffic using the nearly half-million-dollar transportation impact fee that officials required Walmart to pay.
"They paid their money in good faith. And now the city has an obligation to come back and find out if mitigation is required." Until then, shoppers will probably flock to the 24-hour store.
Steenson most likely won't be one of them.
Nothing personal. His wife likes Publix better.
"There are a lot of people that love Walmart. There are a lot of people that hate Walmart. I could care less whose name is on that building.
"If Target had gone in there, or a Sears Roebuck, I would have the same concerns I had."
But traffic woes aside, Steenson adds that there is a plus to having a new Walmart in that spot.
"One thing that is good about it is they got rid of the porn store at the corner."
Information from Times files was used in this report.
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