NEIGHBORS WANT MORE THAN JUST BARGAINS

St. Petersburg Times - St. Petersburg, Fla.
Author: ELISABETH DYER
Date: Jul 20, 2007

Folks are open to a Wal-Mart but are concerned about traffic and drainage.

Residents are keeping an eye on the recently announced deal to bring a Wal-Mart Supercenter to South Tampa.

Top on their list of concerns: traffic and storm drainage.

Community members watched Monday's storm puddle at the proposed site, at Gandy Boulevard and Lois Avenue, and hoped building the store's lot won't make matters worse.

Al Steenson is sending e-mails to officials. He wants to be in the loop when Wal-Mart talks to the city or state Department of Transportation.

Steenson wonders, will Wal-Mart spring for a pervious parking lot?

Will two-lane Lois Avenue widen to four lanes to handle the increased traffic?

But for the most part, the welcome mat is out. People like the idea of saving money.

Community members just want to give their opinions on the new site.

And Wal-Mart, polishing up its image after several run-ins with community associations and environmentalists in the Tampa Bay area, is taking an active stance.

"The earlier you can get in, meet with the neighbors and give them accurate information and a point of contact, the more successful we are," said spokeswoman Quenta Vettel.

At a neighborhood meeting this month, company engineers and land- use attorney Jim Porter came armed with answers to questions, preliminary drawings of site plans and pizza.

Wal-Mart officials expect traffic to double once the store is built. They are just starting meetings with the DOT and city officials to determine access points into the site. Architects are working on the required elevation and have driven around the neighborhood, taking photos of buildings to match the store's look to the historic flavor.

Don't expect a blue and gray box. New Wal-Mart stores come with options like tile roofs and earth tones.

The supercenter, including grocery, garden and general merchandise areas, will cover about 150,000 square feet. The grocery portion will carry organic foods.

"To supply produce, we often work with local growers," Vettel said.

Because this site is smaller than the typical 208,000-square- foot supercenter on 25 acres, it will forego a gas station, tire and lube center and a liquor store.

Wal-Mart officials will keep neighbors in the loop as development progresses, Vettel says, with another meeting, perhaps in the fall.

Elisabeth Dyer can be reached at edyer@sptimes.com or (813) 226- 3321.

Wal-Mart officials expect traffic to double once the store is built. They are just starting meetings with the DOT and city officials to determine access points into the site. Architects are working on the required elevation and have driven around the neighborhood, taking photos of buildings to match the store's look to the historic flavor.

Don't expect a blue and gray box. New Wal-Mart stores come with options like tile roofs and earth tones.

Wal-Mart officials will keep neighbors in the loop as development progresses, [Quenta Vettel] says, with another meeting, perhaps in the fall.

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