Friday, March 19, 2004

George Mindling Column 3-19-2004


Wal-Mart invests in growth


Wernher von Braun once said, "One test result is worth a thousand expert opinions." Not that we don't have a thousand expert opinions here in Charlotte County.

On the other hand, the Wal-Mart Corporation, planning to expand its stores here. has its test results. The area from the existing Supercenter in Venice to the Punta Gorda store has already been targeted for growth. The Punta Gorda store has been planned for a Mediterranean-style rebuild, taking the store from just under 100,000 square feet to just over 192,000 square feel, with parking for 693 cars. The new Wal-Mart stores planned for Kings Highway and 1- 7S and the new store at Sumter and U.S. 41 in North Port will both be Supercenters.

The Supercenter planned for Kings Highway will be even bigger than the Punta Gorda store. At well over 220,000 square feet, the store will be on a 50-acre site just inside the Charlotte County line, adjacent to Lake Suzy. Ground-breaking should take place early next year. The store is planned for opening in about two years.

While the new North Port store will only occupy 26.3 acres, it is also planned 8S a Supercenter, Rumors of a "Food Only" Wal-Mart grocery store coming to North Port have been around for a while, but this new store, adjacent to a planned new Home Depot, is planned as a full scale Supercenter.

The Wal-Mart store in Englewood will soon face the boom in home sales and building in West County and will eventually be considered for growth, if it hasn't already. In fact, if you go to the
Wal-Mart Web Site, www.wal-mart.com, and search around a little bit, you'll find a page to suggest where to build the next one in case you don't have one in your neighborhood.

Punta Gorda, though, may face the remote possibility of forcing the new store out of the city limits into Charlotte County. The new store will certainly be close to the 'old store, so complaints against Wal-Mart may leave local residents with an empty building while a new Supercenter opens not far away in Charlotte County. The corporate planners at Wal-Mart know where the potential growth areas are and most certainly plan on maximizing their current assets. Abandoning the old store is not the preferred course of action.

Both the Punta Gorda and North Port stores will be built to comply, and probably exceed, the local beautification standards and guidelines. The end of the "ugly gray box" has been dictated by local design standards. The design standards local communities impose are a sign of growth . management, helping shape the environment in which we will live.

The care with which Wal-Mart approaches the zoning and beautification mandates are an indication of the willingness of Wal-Mart to invest in the growth of our community. The potential revenues the stores are planned to generate are not just numbers based on expert opinion. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out Wal-Mart isn't planning on wasting its money.

 George Mindling © 2004

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