Cheshire Road Walmart nixed during economic downturn

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Three years ago, Walmart put the brakes on a project that would have replaced the company's store at 1760 U.S. Route 23.

Walmart had planned to build a 175,000-square-foot Supercenter near Cheshire Road and spent $5.7 million on a 22.12-acre site. The new store was expected to anchor a shopping center proposed by Cheshire Developers LLC. The shopping center has not been built.

When the plans were called off in 2008, city community affairs coordinator Lee Yoakum said city officials were told the Delaware project was nixed because of the company's prioritization process.

City manager Tom Homan, however, told ThisWeek the economy was the biggest factor that kept Walmart from building the Supercenter. Prior to the stock market plunge in September 2008, there was a lot of concern over the state of the economy, he said.

“The downturn in 2008 impacted negatively a lot of development plans,” he said.

When the new Cheshire Road Walmart was first suggested, resident Emily Carey tearfully urged city council to fight the retailer, ThisWeek reported on Sept. 18, 2005.

"I don't want to live across the street from a Super Walmart," Carey said. "Coming here was an investment opportunity. We want to see our investment grow."

During the same meeting, third ward councilman Dave Godsil predicted his constituents would “go ape” if a Walmart opened there.

By February 2006, Walmart’s plans were public and many of the 130 citizens who packed into a council meeting raised concerns about noise and traffic and said the store would “attract criminals.”

That fall, both the city planning commission and council rejected Walmart’s preliminary development plans. The following July, council accepted Walmart’s amended plan, but the company never submitted a final plan.

City council member Joe DiGenova said he was the only one to vote against the Cheshire Road Walmart. Though DiGenova himself supported the store, he said he was representing his constituents, who were against the store's arrival and concerned about decreasing property values.

The Walmart on U.S. 23 has been an important part of the city's retail base, Homan said. Citing the competitiveness of the retail market, he added that he doesn't think anyone could conclude that Walmart has negatively affected other retail stores.

The retail landscape has changed since 2008, Homan said, and Superstores won't be opening as often as they did in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“They're going to be more cautious about opening up new stores,” he said.

As far as the city is aware, Walmart still owns the property, Yoakum said.

ThisWeek staff writer Nate Ellis contributed to this story.


 

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