Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, plans to make a grand entrance into the competitive East Valley supermarket scene by opening not one but four Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets in Mesa.
Three of the proposed stores will be presented Wednesday to the city’s Design Review Board for sites not expected to need rezoning.
These would be on the northwest corners of:
• McKellips Road and Horne.
• University Drive and Higley Road.
• Baseline and Lindsay roads.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based company is getting ready to submit plans for a fourth site at the southwest corner of Guadalupe and Hawes roads to the city’s Planning and Zoning Board, community affairs manager Peter Kanelos said Monday. There is no projected opening date for the stores, he said.
Each store would cover about 40,000 square feet, offering shoppers a typical supermarket selection and an alternative to its gargantuan supercenters.
Some shoppers find the 200,000-square-foot supercenters too unwieldy to navigate on a short trip, Kanelos said. He said the company is confident about moving into the Valley’s grocery sector, which is perceived by some as being saturated with choices. Wal-Mart has two supercenters and one smaller store in Mesa, as well as a store in Tempe and a recently opened supercenter in Apache Junction, which replaced a smaller store.
Wal-Mart stores proposed for Gilbert and other Valley municipalities have been fought by residents worried about neighborhood preservation and union leaders opposed to what they call the chain’s anti-labor policies.
Kanelos said Wal-Mart has opened 49 neighborhood markets in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Florida and Tennessee, and plans to build 20 to 25 more in 2003. He does not know of any planned for Arizona aside from the four Mesa stores. Despite the perceived glut of supermarkets in the East Valley, at least one of the stores could have a niche pretty much to itself, said Lori Quan, a marketing specialist for Mesa’s economic development office.
"Lindsay (Road) doesn’t have a freeway exit, so typically, grocery stores don’t locate there," she said. Quan said the average area supermarket is around 60,000 square feet.
Each store will employ about 80 to 100 people, Kanelos said, and many are likely to welcome any new jobs to the city during the current economic downturn.
But Neil Barna, chairman of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce’s board and president and CEO of Mesa Bank, said more retail jobs will do little to advance Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker’s stated goal of transforming the city "from a bedroom community to a boardroom community," which he said the chamber endorses.
"I believe there is a place for retail in this community, but I also think it’s important that Mesa looks very hard at its remaining space and how it’s used," he said.
Details about the three proposed stores, including architecture and landscaping, will be presented to the seven-member design board during a meeting held immediately after a 3:30 p.m. study session Wednesday.
WHAT: Mesa Design Review Board meeting
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Mesa’s Utilities Building, 640 N. Mesa Drive