Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin said officials from Walmart are just as eager to put a Walmart Neighborhood Market grocer in the place of the old Food Depot as the city is to host what would be the first of its kind in the state.
“They’re very eager to get in this type market,” Tumlin said. “They’re moving full-speed ahead. They eventually want to build 20 to 25 of these Market stores, but we will be the first if everything goes well. I hope everything goes through quickly so we will be the first.”
The Walmart Neighborhood Market is not a new concept by the retailer. The first store opened in 1998 and now includes 183 across the country. But the Market would be new to Georgia because it would essentially be a grocery store owned and operated by Walmart. According to the company, the typical store employs about 95 associates and covers about 42,000 square feet. Some of the products and services offered at the stores include fresh produce, meat and dairy products, health and beauty aids, a drive-through pharmacy, bakery items, household supplies and a one-hour photo center.
According to documents from the City of Marietta’s Board of Zoning Appeals hearing held on Monday evening, the Marietta Walmart Neighborhood Market would be located at 1137 Powder Springs Street, on the same property as the former Food Depot, which closed its doors earlier this year. The shopping center is located at the intersection of Bellmeade Drive and Powder Springs Street, and is across the street from the new county government offices in the Powder Springs Station, which once held an Ingles grocery store.
City Manager Bill Bruton said the Board of Zoning Appeals approved all the variances as recommended by staff, and the matter is considered approved and does not go to council. Bruton said the company has to go through the permitting process, but said that is normal and it is less likely there will be environmental issues in the permitting since the site previously housed a grocery store, as opposed to a gas station or dry cleaners.
The staff recommendation provided in the documents says the current shopping center is “quite aged and does not conform to many of the City’s current codes.” Multiple variances would have to be granted in order to redevelop the property, the recommendation states, and the number of parking spaces would be reduced from the current 350 spaces to 286.
Marietta City Councilman Grif Chalfant said the company will tear down the former Food Depot building and build a brand new store in its place. The connecting businesses, however, will remain intact and operating, Chalfant said. Walmart will be leasing the property from an out-of-state owner, represented by Inyoung S. Boyd of Marietta’s Boyd Georgia Property, according to city documents.
Chalfant said the company is waiting for environmental studies to be completed and approved, but other than that, “they are ready to go.” Chalfant estimated the store would be open by the end of 2012.
Tumlin said there have been numerous changes to the city’s “big box ordinance” over the past five years for large centers like the proposed Market. Those changes are aimed at making the centers more aesthetically pleasing, Tumlin said, and aims to make them blend in with the community and have more vegetation and a nicer look. Tumlin said Walmart officials “basically agreed to all the stipulations” and have been easy to work with through the zoning process.
Chalfant said the store will be eligible for the Opportunity Zones incentives, which provides companies with $3,500 for each job that is filled in areas depicted as being in need of job and business development.
“I, along with our other homeowners who live right there, are just blown away by this. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that nothing goes wrong. I will just be such a shot in arm for that area, along with the new Chinese restaurant going in right there,” Chalfant said.
“I think it’s going to be wonderful,” Tumlin added. “It’s a great opportunity. They’re the leading retailer in the whole country and we needed the presence of a good retailer for area and city. The economic impact they will have will be tremendous, and we’re excited they chose Marietta. Obviously, they’re seeing something in the numbers we hope will bring the attention of other retailers. With the senior citizens center across the street being done, Walmart coming in, this will be major statement.”
According to Walmart’s website, as of June 2011, the total number of Walmart associates in Georgia is 53,651. As of June 2011, the average wage for regular, full-time hourly associates in Georgia is $12.34 per hour.