Like it or not, it looks like Park De Ville residents are just going to have to live with a Wal-Mart Supercenter in their neighborhood.
Columbia’s third proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter, originally planned to be west of Columbia Mall, will now be built along West Broadway across from HyVee. Just how big it will be remains a question, but a Wednesday meeting between area residents and the developer, The Kroenke Group, brought the issue into focus.
Otto Maly, a member of The Kroenke Group, on Wednesday also said a fourth Wal-Mart might be in Columbia’s future. He said four stores would be appropriate for a town the size of Columbia, and a possible location might be the city’s growing north side.
The developer had considered the West Broadway and Fairview Road site a possible location for the store in 2001. Now it has returned to that site after it was unable to generate enough interest to get speedy construction on a new Interstate 70 interchange west of Stadium Boulevard. One reason for the need for a quick resolution is that The Kroenke Group, which also owns the Biscayne Commons property, has an agreement with Famous Barr to remove the Wal-Mart currently located near its store.
The lengthy debate about the interchange delayed the project, developer attorney Craig Van Matre said. The Kroenke Group wants the third store built as soon as possible. Maly said Wednesday he’s still hoping for the interchange but doesn’t expect it for another eight to 10 years.
At the meeting, Maly and Van Matre presented three possible layouts for the proposed Supercenter on the West Broadway site.
The smallest plan calls for a 178,947-square-foot store to be built on 17.5 acres facing Fairview Road. The plans call for little landscaping or green space and are less than ideal for both neighbors and the developer, but it can be built right now without any support from residents, Van Matre said. The Kroenke Group already owns the land and has the appropriate commercial zoning.
But Wal-Mart wants a larger, more attractive store, and the developer thinks residents should want that, too. Van Matre worked Wednesday to convince neighbors to work with the developer to create a store layout that would be agreeable to everyone.
“We want to get favorable action from the council, and we’re not going to get it unless we have neighbor support,” he told about 100 residents at the meeting.
The largest plan calls for a 203,091-square-foot Supercenter to be built on 32.5 acres facing West Broadway. That plan includes about four acres of park land and landscaping intended to create a buffer between the neighborhoods and the store. It also calls for the developer to purchase five homes along Park De Ville Drive in order to make room for more parking spaces on the site. A third plan has the same layout as the latter plan, but accommodates the five homes with a smaller store and parking lot.
Residents had mixed reactions to the presentation. Some worry about the Supercenter’s proximity to an area school, and some were concerned about the traffic the store could draw onto Park De Ville Drive.
After about an hour of debate, however, a small majority of neighbors agreed to work with The Kroenke Group to create a larger store. Maly said he would consider widening Park De Ville and provide additional parking to the nearby school.
A possible factor in the vote was that while the smaller 17.5 acre Wal-Mart would be built in open commercial zoning, the larger store would likely be built in planned zoning, which would allow neighbors and city council members to have much more input on the final plans.
Four of the five homeowners along Park De Ville attended the meeting and said they are willing to sell their homes to accommodate the larger store.
Harrold Ankeney, one of the five homeowners, voted in favor of working with the developer.
“I supported (the Wal-Mart) because if they have the whole thing, they have a better chance of widening the streets,” Ankeney said.
Maly said more meetings will be scheduled to try to draw up plans. He said he would like to go to the council with the plans in about two months and break ground on the new store in six months at the earliest.
Maly said the smaller Wal-Mart is “on hold” but still an option.
Both Maly and Van Matre stressed their desire to work with neighbors.
“It will delay us, but we’re willing to do that instead of shoving the 17.5 acre plan down your throat,” Van Matre said.