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Thursday, July 07, 2022

Plans to shut down Wal-Mart causes worry

Plans for a new Wal-Mart Supercenter may bring economic benefits to some people, but others are worried it might affect their businesses.

As plans for the new supercenter on US-441 and Northwest 34th Street take shape, so do plans to shut down the Wal-Mart on Northwest 13th Street.

Brent Christensen, Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce president, said the new supercenter would be beneficial to the surrounding area.

"It will certainly offer another strong retail option for those communities," Christensen said.

Despite the potential for economic benefits, the plan to shut down the Wal-Mart on Northwest 13th Street has caused economic anxiety for some surrounding businesses.

Shannon Coleman, manager of Simply Fashions, is concerned about her women's clothing boutique, which is near Wal-Mart on Northwest 13th Street.

"We're not happy about it," Coleman said.

Jeffrey Lam, owner of Hip Hop Nails a couple of doors down, said he's also concerned about the closing of the nearby Wal-Mart. He's heard talk about the Wal-Mart moving for years, Lam said.

"Wal-Mart is convenient for a lot of people," Lam said. "It's good for small businesses like us."

He said they get a lot of Wal-Mart customers who get their nails done after shopping.

However, Quenta Vettel, local Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said retail stores have made a major comeback in that area with the new Lowe's, Sam's Club and a furniture store.

"That part of 13th Street is going to continue to grow and thrive," she said.

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City Commissioner Rick Bryant said the shutdown can be a negative drag on the retail area, and he hopes the city can find a retailer to fill the empty building.

"We need to just work with them and see if we can find an adequate replacement," he said.

Bryant said he preferred the supercenter was built at a more southern location on US-441. However, he said he can settle with the decision.

"I'm very happy that they're staying within Gainesville city limits," Bryant said.

He said the Gainesville Development Review Board is evaluating the project.

"We felt for a long time now that we need to replace the 13th Street store," Vettel said.

The store is small and Wal-Mart doesn't own the property, which is leased by another commercial developer, she said.

When Wal-Mart bought the development, it was already in the process of looking at places for relocation, she said.

"They have long-term plans that they have had in mind," Vettel said. "It wasn't a surprise that we were looking elsewhere."

Spaces in the front of the store, usually reserved for vision centers or nail salons, will be determined during construction, she said.

The potential construction site was already deemed commercial development by the city, so that will minimize residential area problems, Vettel said.

The new Wal-Mart, which does not yet have a grand opening date, will introduce new solar panels that help produce energy for the store.

Vettel said the project, which was announced last week by Wal-Mart, Gainesville Regional Utilities and city staff, will have solar panels that create covered parking spots.

Wal-Mart agreed to pay up to 30 percent or ,1 million of the solar panel project. GRU will pay for the rest, she said.

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