Excitement is growing over a new Walmart that will help revitalize Independence Boulevard.
But it could have a major impact on another area that just lost its Walmart. Many businesses in the area are concerned they will not survive.
To appreciate the opening of the Walmart on Independence Boulevard, people have to remember it took five years just to get construction started.
Even as crews scramble for an opening Wednesday morning, the Walmart it is replacing closed its doors just down the street, leaving another empty big box for the east side to contend with.
The final touches are being put on and Walmart, the first new development in years along that area of the highway, is ready to open.
Donna Thomas cannot wait.
“It opens at 8 a.m., so I know I’ll be here,” she said.
Thomas hopes the new store will help resurrect the largely vacant Coliseum Shopping Center next door. City Councilman John Autry shares that hope.
“We’re hoping it’s going to have a positive effect on the economic vitality of the area,” he said.
But over the horizon, 1.5 miles away, is a more pressing concern.
Tuesday afternoon, the Walmart on Eastway closed its doors for good, which is bad news for businesses now on their own, like Raymond Zakarian’s jewelry store.
He is certain his business will decline without the Walmart.
The city had hoped to avoid problems with an empty big box on Eastway, but a 2006 letter from Walmart promised that it would maintain the Eastway property for five years and even hire a real estate broker to help find a new tenant.
But in a rough economy, it ended up taking five eyars to get the new Walmart built. So Walmart may no longer be responsible for providing help to the soon-to-be empty big box on Eastway.
Shopper Bill Byrd does not like the possibilities.
“If history is any factor in it, it’s going to remain empty for a while and I would hate to see that,” he said.
The leasing company for the Eastway building said Walmart’s elase expires in February. He is not expecting them to market the site, but did say that he has had interest from other businesses.
Nothing has been a firm deal, though.
The new Walmart opens after a ribbon cutting just after sunrise.