GOSHEN — Call it the Walmart economic indicator.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailing giant has gone back and forth on its plans to expand its northwest Goshen store, in the Market Centre development at 4024-2 Elkhart Road, to its Supercenter concept.Those plans are back on again.
The company recently filed plans with state fire safety officials to build a new 189,000-square-foot store directly behind the existing 116,000-square-foot store. The new store will include a larger grocery section and drive-through pharmacy, according to plans filed with the city.
In March 2007 the company won city council approval of a rezoning for the new store plan but never broke ground as the economic crisis took hold in 2008.
In May 2010 Walmart filed different plans with the city to expand the existing store to the east, taking it almost to the wall of the neighboring Sam’s Club. That store would have been 157,000 square feet, 15 percent smaller than the current plans.
That work also never began.
"It had to do with the recession,“ said Rhonda Yoder, city planning and zoning administrator. ”They felt like a huge expansion at that time wasn’t in their budget. The economy was still in a downward trend at that time.“
In December 2012 Walmart again came to city officials with the current plans, and the city plan commission unanimously approved them in March 2013. A Walmart spokesman in December 2012 told the plan commission that the store was expected to be finished by spring 2014. It would more than double the store’s employees, growing payroll from 130 to 300 workers.
Groundbreaking again never materialized.
But in light of the plans filed July 10 with the state, the new store project appears to be moving again.
When contacted for comment July 11, Walmart director of communications Anne Hatfield said via email that the company had ”no news to announce in Goshen at this time,“ but said she would have something to share in a month. But Hatfield has not returned The Elkhart Truth’s messages over the past two weeks.
In addition to more groceries and the drive-through pharmacy, additions include a shelter for horses, a retention pond behind Sam’s Club and many more trees and bushes than now exist, according to the plans filed with the city. The landscaping is required under city codes that didn’t exist when the existing store was built in the 1990s. Yoder said the city prefers the trees be planted on islands in the middle of the parking areas, but Walmart has instead chosen to plant most of them on the lot’s perimeter.
Walmart also agreed to grant an easement for a bike, pedestrian and buggy trail the city plans to extend north to the retail area from C.R. 28.
The existing store will remain open until the new one is finished. It will then be demolished and converted to parking.
The timeframe for the project remains unclear. Yoder said she did not know whether construction would begin yet this year. Store officials have previously said the construction should take 10 to 11 months once it starts.