Mayor, residents react to Wal-Mart’s decision to not build a store in Atascadero
Nearly two years after Wal-Mart opted not to build a long planned and debated store in Atascadero, the retail giant has finally put its sprawling property on the market, according to city officials.
Wal-Mart announced last February it would not be following through with plans to build a store with about 120,000 square feet of retail space near the intersection of Del Rio Road and El Camino Real on the north end of town.
The new store was expected to generate about $580,000 per year in sales tax revenue and was also tied to large-scale road improvements at the nearby Del Rio Road-El Camino Real-Highway 101 interchange.
This move followed more than a decade of controversy, including a lawsuit against the city filed by residents opposed to Wal-Mart. The company cited an increase in online shopping as one of the primary factors behind its decision.
For almost two years, the property has been in limbo while Wal-Mart left city officials in the dark regarding its intentions for the 26-acre site.
But Phil Dunsmore, the city’s community development director, said the company’s real estate broker confirmed in September the site is up for sale.
Now that the property is finally on the market, Atascadero leaders are considering next steps for the area.
Customers aren’t as interested in big stores anymore — they’re more interested in shopping experiences that may include a stop at a nearby restaurant, he said.
“People don’t go places just to buy something anymore,” Dunsmore said.
Lodging, breweries and entertainment are more in demand, as are business parks and light industrial uses.
This shift will likely change anticipated traffic patterns and might mean the city won’t need to install roundabouts or significantly alter the interchange, Dunsmore said.
Improvements might include additional turn lanes or traffic light adjustments to prevent off-ramp traffic caused by vehicles exiting Highway 101.
The city hired a consultant to conduct a study that reflects the new traffic situation, the results of which will be presented at the Nov. 27 City Council meeting.
The next step would be an amendment to the Del Rio Specific Plan that would allow future developments to move forward without significant road work. This likely won’t happen until sometime next year, Dunsmore said.
“All indications seem to point to fewer needed road improvements,” he said.