Wal-Mart opens Supercenter on Gandy Boulevard
November 10, 2010
A snazzy new Wal-Mart Supercenter has joined the ranks of Gandy Boulevard's big-box retailers, offering everything from groceries and clothing to electronics and custom-blended paint.
Today's 7:30 a.m. ribbon-cutting culminates the retail giant's three-year effort to gain a presence on the busy corridor that includes a Sweetbay Supermarket directly across Gandy and â?? one minute away - a Publix grocery store, next door to a Target store that recently added groceries.
The 145,000-square-foot Wal-Mart has a bakery, deli, pharmacy and 30 departments, including electronics, apparel and accessories, lawn and garden, health and beauty aids.
The world's largest retailer boasts of an energy-efficient store with environmentally friendly features to reduce consumption and minimize waste.
Some residents, however, worry the 24-hour store at on Gandy at Lois Avenue will create traffic problems.
Members of the Gandy/Sun Bay South Civic Association have eyed the mammoth project since 2007, when Wal-Mart bought five parcels totaling 12.8 acres to accommodate the superstore and a parking lot with 600-plus spaces.
Association President Al Steenson said the group no longer has an issue with Wal-Mart; it has an issue with the city of Tampa.
"The Wal-Mart people, on July 29th it's my understanding, wrote a check to city for $478,329 for transportation impact fees," Steenson said. "Wal-Mart has done their part; they paid their money," he said.
"I have no ax to grind with Wal-Mart," Steenson emphasized. "My concerns are the impact on the community in terms of traffic and the fact it's a 24/7 operation."
Mildred McFadden has lived on West Pearl Avenue since 1960. She fears an increase in cut-through traffic along her tree-lined street.
"Nobody wants to travel on Gandy; they're going to take Lois and turn on Pearl," a residential street that long has been burdened with truck traffic from a nearby Macy's furniture warehouse and neighboring industrial operations south of Gandy. "Now with Wal-Mart there I expect it'll get a lot worse; they're going to be open 24 hours a day," she said.
McFadden, 82, who spent a decade fighting to get "speed tables" â?? raised segments of roadway designed to slow motorists -- built along Pearl Avenue, said they fail to discourage motorists eager to avoid busy Gandy.
McFadden, who shops two supermarkets near Wal-Mart, has another fear: "I'm afraid it will put Sweetbay out of business."
As for heightened competition from a corporation with annual sales of $405 billion, Steenson said, "I don't really have a feel for that. But you've got people who won't do grocery shopping at Wal-Mart because they're dedicated Publix shoppers."
And Wal-Mart lacks an in-house butcher and does not stock many ethnic foods sold elsewhere, he said.
The Wal-Mart pharmacy might affect nearby chain drugstores, Steenson said. "I think it's obviously going to hurt the new CVS on the corner" of Gandy and Manhattan Avenue.
The Wal-Mart hired 300-plus employees, many of whom have patronized nearby fast-food restaurants and other businesses since in-store training and stocking of shelves began, said manager Brian Lemelin of Riverview.
The store has LED lighting, 70 percent more efficient than traditional fluorescent lighting, and further reduces power consumption automatically by detecting when the ample skylights provide adequate illumination, Lemelin said.
Concrete floors made with recycled materials have a finish that reduces the need for chemical cleaners, while low-flow toilets and faucets reduce water use. The store bales and sells its recyclable materials.
"There are a lot of sustainability issues that will save us a lot," Lemelin said.
Wal-Mart Foundation offered grand-opening grants totaling $62,000 to local groups include $25,000 to Lowry Park Zoo. Other recipients were Madison Middle and West Shore elementary schools, and Robinson High School. The Gandy/Sun Bay South Civic Association will continue to monitor traffic around the store and push for mitigation, if needed. "We have traffic numbers for both intersections, Lois and Pearl, and Gandy and Lois," counts made before Wal-Mart's debut, Steenson said.
A future count will measure the increase. "The Christmas holiday season is not the time to be doing any traffic surveys. Let the store get settled in and get its normal shopping pattern," Steenson said.
"It is what it is," he said of the new store. "A lot of people are looking forward to it. It's 327 jobs; there a lot people looking for work."
One more thing: Wal-Mart's purchase of five Gandy Boulevard commercial properties enabled demolition of a totally different supercenter. "At least the porn store is gone," Steenson said with a laugh, referring to the former Pleasure Zone Adult Supercenter.
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