Walmart eyeing Seminole Heights for new store

7:23 PM, Mar 12, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Neighbors behind a former car dealership on Hillsborough Avenue recently got a special delivery in the mail: documents outlining potential plans for a 121,000-square foot Walmart to be built on the currently vacant land. 

For many residents, that was the first time they had ever heard about the possibility of a Walmart at 1720 E. Hillsborough.

After receiving the papers, one resident wrote about it on the Official Unofficial Seminole Heights Blog, prompting a variety of reactions from residents. Some were supportive of neighborhood development, while others worried about the negative impact it could have on traffic and local businesses.

"When contacted by the City of Tampa, Walmart acknowledged that they are still very interested in the referenced site," City of Tampa spokeswoman Ali Glisson tells 10 News. "However, they said that they are in the early process of site investigation and have not finalized the transaction."

Sanwa Farmers Market is a few blocks away from the proposed site, and has been selling produce on E. Hillsborough for the last 15 years. President Tony Leung hopes an incoming Walmart store wouldn't take a bite out of the fruits of his labor.

"I think positive. That's the way I'm thinking," he says about potential competition. "I think I have a little bit of an edge because I'm a farmer."

The total building area shown in Walmart's site plan would be smaller than the average Walmart Supercenter, but roughly around the same size as the average Sam's Club or Walmart Discount Store.

"I kind of welcome it, but I hope it's not going to be the normal big box Walmart. It should have a little creativity to it, I think," says Greg Curtis, the owner of Cleanse Apothecary on N. Florida Avenue.

Curtis' store is across the street from Historic Seminole Heights' last run-in with big box stores. Along Florida Ave., close to local businesses like The Independent Bar and Cafe and The Refinery, Family Dollar is opening a new store. The campaign No Family Dollar began in response to the plan, with the motto, "We want bungalows, not box stores."

Among the campaign's concerns about Family Dollar: the chain stores could impact property values and hurt mom-and-pop shops. Those concerns carry over to Walmart's plan as well, but some of those local shops aren't worried.

"I think we have to embrace every kind of development in our community," says Curtis.

"I love competition," Leung adds. "I think competition is in my blood, so I'm not too overly concerned."

Along with the Walmart store and ample parking, the potential project includes other elements. A stop light could be installed at the intersection of 19th St. and Hillsborough Ave. It's already received approval from the city's Transportation Department, and is subject to approval from the Florida Department of Transportation.

There would also be two driveways constructed: one for customers, and one for delivery trucks located further south so that the trucks wouldn't interfere with the residential area north of the store. These driveways have already been granted a waiver from the city.

"As part of [Walmart's] due diligence investigation, they applied for a Driveway Access to Local Street Waiver, and it was approved," Glisson says.

Walmart didn't respond to our requests for comment.

Follow 10 News Reporter Ashley Porter on twitter @ashleyreporter

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