Super Walmart Center Boon to East Gainesville Economy
The building of the Eastside Walmart Super Center has been long in the making --politically as well as economically-- and the doors to the mega retail store will open in early May.
With the "super store" almost complete, questions prevail whether Walmart fits into Gainesville's economic plan to revive the eastside of the city.
It has been nearly ten years in the making, the reason: this isn't your typical Walmart. City planners really wanted this store to enhance the surrounding area.
Store manager of the new Walmart, Gene Gessler points to one of the two entrances that will open to the super center store, "The street lights, traffic lights, the left-turn lane and 2 bus stops because we know we're going to have a lot of traffic," explains Gessler.
With lots of traffic, hopes are high the Super Walmart on Waldo Road will bring plenty of shoppers to the Eastside of Gainesville. Many years in the planning with the city, the store is meant to be a boon to the local economy.
"Everybody got to the table and we got the right mix of what the store was going to look like and east side development and where we where we going to put our location," says Gessler.
Key city planners, including Eric Bredfeld, say bringing the Super Walmart is a critical part of the plan to grow east Gainesville's economic opportunities. And one of the components that took the longest to get approved --the store's appearance. Shoppers are sure to notice it's all brick and meticulously landscaped.
"We've been working now for about 10 years at one point the stores were a gray box with two stripes but we're really trying to blend esthetically with the environments we're going to move into," says Gessler.
But newly elected city commissioner and --growth management attorney-- Thomas Hawkins Jr. says looks are only part of the development equation.
"I don't want to downplay esthetics because they certainly are important but i think the real question is ...how it fits with surrounding development and what it does for our transportation infrastructure," says Hawkins.
City commissioners hope the multiple roadways --far from the congested west Gainesville -- make the area a prime locale for more businesses to move in, keeping in mind the need for accessibilty.
From the parking lot, Gessler highlights the design surrounding the parking lot, "... connecting to the subdivisions back there so people can walk or ride their bicycles," says Gessler.
Something that Hawkins agrees is in keeping with sound growth. "The best way to do it is to make pedestrian mobility ...through Gainesville our design priority," adds Hawkins.
Gessler says since opening the hiring center last Monday they have received more than 1000 applications, but they'll only hire 450. The store officially opens on may 7th.
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