Wal-Mart planning a Supercenter in Winslow

For months rumors abounded that Wal-Mart was planning to build a Supercenter in Winslow. Last Friday, a spokesman for the company confirmed the rumors were true.

“The Supercenter will be built behind the existing store and once it is completed the existing store will be demolished,” company spokesman Peter Kanelos said. “We are shooting for an opening in the first quarter of 2006.”

The new store will be 158,067 square feet, which is more than double the existing store, but still smaller than most Supercenters. Supercenters average between 100,000 and 220,000 square feet of retail space. Depending on size and customer needs, they employ between 200 and 550 employees.

“It’s small for a Supercenter but it’s not the smallest Supercenter by any means,” Kanelos said. “It’ll still have a much greater selection than the existing store.”

Plans call for an auto center for oil and tire changes along with other light maintenance work, a garden center and full grocery area. Other services such as one-hour photo developing or a salon could be added later. Most of the lobby areas in Supercenters are typically leased by other businesses and vary by community.

Winslow leaders have said they have not had official meetings with the retail company and no plans have been presented to the city.

Engineers for the retail giant have talked with City Administrator John Roche about existing utilities and parking and landscaping issues but not about a Supercenter.

“We have not talked officially with Wal-Mart. We talked with their engineers,” he said.

The expansion is a business model Wal-Mart is using throughout the country to provide its customers with everything under one roof.

“Our Supercenter concept is a format our customers love,” Kanelos said. “It’s one-stop shopping.”

Mayor Jim Boles said the company officials’ visit indicated to him that they could be looking at expanding here though they did not tell him that was the reason for being in Winslow.

“They have not approached for any concessions,” he said. “All they have done, I assume it was their engineering department, was stopped by more or less for a courtesy visit.”

Two weeks ago, Flagstaff City Council passed an ordinance that would keep Wal-Mart from being able to build a Supercenter there. The “big box” ordinance capped retail stores at 125,000 square feet, required a conditional use permit for anything larger than 75,000 square feet and set an 8-percent limit on the amount of floor space a retailer could devote to non-taxable grocery sales.

A group opposing the ordinance said they would consider obtaining enough signatures to have voters reverse the decision in a special March referendum.

Winslow Councilwoman Judy Howell said she would present a proposal to council soon that would be similar to the one Flagstaff passed.

“While we don’t have anyone to raise a great big fuss on creating a big box (ordinance), let’s get it in place,” she said. “When companies come and look at Winslow they’ll know what the zoning and ordinances are.

“We already have one big box standing empty that is way too expensive for anyone to come in and rent. Most big boxes that are going to come in are going to build their own buildings.”

The empty K-mart building is considered an eyesore and it has less than 100,000 square feet of space.

Before any building permits are issued, builders must follow the city’s process. City Planning and Zoning Manager Jane Zukowski discussed the procedure for City Council at last Tuesday’s meeting. The first step any business or individual must undergo before obtaining a building permit is a five-step development review.

“There’s a lot of things that have to be looked at before we allow something to be built,” she said. “We have no engineer plans (from Wal-Mart). We have not gone into development review.”

Before a building permit can be issued, it must address issues brought up by the police and fire departments, the city engineer, water/wastewater department and the Planning, Zoning, Building Department. The area around the existing store is already zoned for commercial use and would not need to be rezoned for Wal-Mart. The company would still go through the development review process.

Boles did not say if he would favor a big box ordinance because it’s an issue that would be better left to the public, which he said is more divided than people might expect.

“My preference on that would be to refer it to the vote of the people,” he said. “For every person that comes before us and raises objections, I have that many or more that tell me privately, that they would welcome it.”

Wal-Mart Supercenters average about 40-percent of its space devoted to groceries along with 36 other departments offering just about everything except for the kitchen sink. Supercenters also often include Wal-Mart specialty shops such as a Vision Center, Tire & Lube Express and One-Hour Photo Processing. Many are open 24 hours.

The current Winslow store sits on a little more than 8.6 acres, which the company bought in 1988, and is 65,930 square feet. It was one of the first eight stores Wal-Mart built in Arizona when it opened in 1989.

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