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Walmart plans Neighborhood Market on Blackmon Road beside GMC

Walmart plans Neighborhood Market on Blackmon Road beside GMC
42,000-square-foot grocery store will have gas station; other commercial offerings likely nearby
tadams@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 20, 2014 Updated 15 hours ago

Walmart is planning to construct a second Neighborhood Market in Columbus, this one on Blackmon Road near the intersection of J.R. Allen Parkway.

The 42,000-square-foot grocery store will be situated on about 6.5 acres of a 35-acre parcel of land owned by Columbus developer Ben Billings and his family. It will include a gas station fronting Blackmon Road.

“It feels very much like any grocery store that you would walk into, the difference being Walmart’s low prices,” Atlanta attorney David Kirk told members of the Columbus Planning Advisory Commission (PAC) Wednesday.

A partner in the law firm, Troutman Sanders LLP, Kirk represents the mega-retailer from time to time. He said there now are nearly 400 Walmart Neighborhood Markets across the United States.

“We started these things about four or five years ago,” he said. “They’ve been very well received. They’re not intended to replace the supercenter concept. They’re intended, really, to provide a convenient gocery store option for our customers.”

Kirk is leading the effort to get 14 acres of the Billings land at 7260 and 7300 Blackmon Road rezoned from “residential estate” to “general commercial.” PAC members unanimously approved the new zoning classification, sending its recommendation to Columbus Council in late September for the final decision.

The store site is adjacent to Georgia Military College and across Blackmon Road from Greystone Farms subdivision. Sonoma Pointe subdivision, Greystone Summit apartment complex and Blackmon Road Middle School all are in vicinity.

It’s an area that overall is heavily residential and is now experiencing a burgeoning commercial presence on Schomburg Road and at Lakeside Village just east on J.R. Allen Parkway. It’s also only two miles from a Walmart Supercenter on Gateway Road, a store that opened in early 2008 on Billings property.

“I think they’re going to cater to two different kinds of people,” Billings said Wednesday of the Neighorhood Market and the supercenter. “Some folks like a small store where they can get in and get out. Other people want to get all of their shopping taken care of in one location.”

Kirk said the Neighborhood Market will have a drive-thru pharmacy, and that stores of its size typically employ about 85 people full-time and part-time.

It also is expected to add a sizeable number of vehicles to Blackmon Road, said Columbus traffic engineer Walter “Doc” Dorsey.

“Right now Blackmon Road is about 5,500 vehicles per day. That’s 24 hours in both directions,” he said. “When the project is fully developed, and that includes the Walmart grocery, the gas station, the outparcel, and I think there’s some projected retail on the property to the north, that will add 3,300 to 3,400 vehicles.”

Walmart has proposed two entrances to the Neighborhood Market, with acceleration and deceleration lanes, and a traffic signal if needed. Dorsey said it will need one. Walmart and the seller — the Billings family — will pay for the improvements, Kirk’s powerpoint presentation said.

As he did adjacent to the Gateway Road Walmart Supercenter, Billings said he expects some commercial development around the coming grocery store, which should take a little less than a year to complete once construction starts. No timetable for that was given Wednesday.

“We’re already getting calls about our rezoning signs about available space,” Billings said. “So we’ll probably have a couple of little strip centers up there. We’ve already got an inquiry into the sale of a 2-acre parcel.”

Basic engineering drawings indicate an outparcel directly in front of the Neighborhood Market is earmarked for a “future restaurant.”

Billings said property near Georgia Military College also has drawn interest from entities possibly wanting to build a nursing home or assisted living facility.

“We just don’t know what type of zoning to use down there and the market will dictate what will happen there,” he said. “But things are really heating up very quickly.”

This is the second Walmart Neighborhood Market planned for Columbus. Last month, Matt Sasser, an Atlanta-based developer representing Bright-Meyers Manchester LLC, laid out details for a 41,983-square-foot store to be built on just over eight acres at 1042 Manchester Expressway, the former home of Daniel Elementary School. The site is across from Columbus Technical College.

The developer is seeking to have the property rezoned from “residential multifamily” to “general commercial,” with hopes of starting construction in early 2015. That Walmart Neighborhood Market would be accompanied by 10,500 square feet of additional retail space, along with a 12-pump gas station operated by Walmart.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has been rolling out the Neighorhood Market format more aggressively due to the rapid growth in smaller retailers, such as Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar. Those locations also are selling more food products.

Walmart executives have publicly stated their goal is to reach 500 markets, which are easier to navigate and carry typical grocery fare — fresh produce, meat, seafood and dairy products, bakery and deli foods, and smaller home, health and beauty goods. The outlets also have pharmacies, which compete head to head with a growing segment that includes Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid.

This is the second Walmart project to surface this year, with the retailer unveiling plans in May to open a 150,000-square-foot supercenter off Victory Drive in south Columbus, where Baker High School once stood. The 18-acre site will include about 21,000 square feet of additional retail space, the company said. Construction on that property also is expected to begin in early 2015.

There now are three supercenters in Columbus — Airport Thruway, Whittlesey Boulevard and Gateway Road — and a smaller Walmart discount store on Buena Vista Road. There also is a supercenter on U.S. Highway 280/431 in Phenix City.