Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced Thursday that it will indeed build its shopping center in northern Atascadero, a move that was called into question recently as the national retailer evaluated its financial commitments on a corporate level. “We’re working on various permitting requirements and haven’t finalized a construction timeline, but we are moving forward with the project,” Wal-Mart spokeswoman Delia Garcia said in an emailed statement.
The news comes about three years after the Atascadero City Council approved the development of a Wal-Mart shopping center and an adjacent retail development now called the Del Rio Marketplace at Del Rio Road and El Camino Real.
The developments were debated for about seven years, drawing both support and criticism. Supporters touted the retail giant for its new jobs, shopping and sales tax gains while its opposition questioned how the store might negatively impact the community.
The City Council unanimously approved the shopping centers in 2012. Residents who opposed the store then unsuccessfully sued the city over that approval. That litigation ended last summer.
“I was very pleased to get a couple of calls from Wal-Mart today and I said I was ecstatic to see that they’re coming,” Mayor Tom O’Malley told The Tribune. “This is really good news for Atascadero. (Wal-Mart) really did revisit every store on their list of expansions nationwide. And I think for Atascadero to make the cut, so to speak, that’s a good omen for us.”
The new 118,000-square-foot Wal-Mart store will have general merchandise, groceries, an outdoor garden center and a full-service pharmacy. The store will employ 250 people.
Garcia said Wal-Mart is now working to get its required permits before construction can begin. She was unable to estimate when that might occur or how long it would take.
As of Thursday, the company hadn’t applied for building permits with the city, Atascadero officials said.
O’Malley said that when the retailer spoke to him on Thursday, “they used the phrase ‘as soon as possible,’” regarding its construction timeline.
Wal-Mart has until July 2016 to get permits, plus five one-year extensions.