Bobbie Moore is excited by plans to again have a full-service grocery store at 50th Street and Ames Avenue, within walking distance of her home. She's also eager to see what other businesses will follow.
"I'm excited because when Walmart comes into the community, other businesses follow," the 65-year-old, lifetime north Omaha resident said. "It gives the community a lot of pride and lets them know we are not forgotten."
Walmart officials and Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle officially announced plans for the $30 million supercenter on Monday. They said the store will open in 2014 and provide about 275 jobs.
"It fills a tremendous retail and grocery need in addition to providing new employment opportunities in an area of our community where the demand for all of these needs is great," Suttle said.
The importance of the project to north Omaha was underscored by the number of city, Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and north Omaha elected officials who joined the press conference.
City Councilman Ben Gray called it "the beginning of some great things to come" for north Omaha.
State Sen. Brenda Council of north Omaha said the project was a step forward in eliminating "food deserts." "It's essential to the physical health of the community that we have more full-service grocery stores in north Omaha," she said.
Baker's Supermarkets, the main retailer in the 50th and Ames area, closed in November 2004 when a new Baker's opened at 72nd and Ames. Super Saver opened a store at the site in February 2005 but closed it about a year later, citing low profits.
The project also will bring a big box retailer back to north Omaha. The Target store on Saddle Creek Road closed in 2006 and the Shopko at 7402 N. 30th St., now a No Frills Supermarket, closed in 2001.
The nearest Walmart Supercenters are at 72nd and Pine Streets, 99th Street and Blair High Road and in Council Bluffs.
A number of Omaha.com readers commented about crime and public safety at the planned store location.
Ryan Irsik, a spokesman for Walmart, said security of customers and associates is a top priority.
"On a store-by-store basis, we carefully consider the number and the quality of our security and crime-prevention measures, Irsik said. "We are working closely with law enforcement agencies in every community we serve to ensure we continue to provide a comfortable and safe shopping environment."
Jeff Keating, a vice president with PDM Inc., the owner of the property, said it's "a real misconception" to think the site has a crime problem. He said in the two decades that Baker's was there, there were never serious crime issues.
City and store officials said they are confident Walmart will work in the location when it opens because it fills a void for both retail and grocery shoppers.
In addition to a grocery department with fresh produce, meat and dairy, the Walmart will include an outdoor garden center, household items, electronics, apparel and a pharmacy, as well as a bakery and deli.
Moore said she's looking forward to shopping there often because "it's a store that sells everything and is a one-stop shop."
She said she's already starting to hear chatter about other businesses that could follow Walmart into the area.
That magnet effect wouldn't be unusual, said Trenton Magid, principal of World Group Commercial Real Estate.
When he worked to develop the Thomsen Mile project near 168th Street and West Maple Road, he closed the deal with Walmart and then drew interest from other retailers. The Walmart opened in 2005, and now the area also has Game Stop, Radio Shack, a hair salon, banks, Sports Authority and PetSmart.
"A Walmart Supercenter creates a lot of traffic, and that traffic will lead to more development in the area," Magid said. "The citizens of north Omaha will determine how successful the project is. If it's done right and citizens embrace it, there will be more development."
Walmart had been eyeing north Omaha for more than six years. When the retail giant picks a location and builds, it in effect has done the due diligence for other stores and businesses, Magid said.
Though Walmart sometimes is viewed as a big bully to mom-and-pop shops, Magid doesn't see it like that. "If a mom-and-pop shop closes because of Walmart, it closes because they are not taking care of their customers," he said.
Officials from two nearby full-service grocery stores — Phil's Foodway near 30th Street and Ames Avenue and No Frills Supermarket near 30th and Weber Streets — couldn't be reached Monday.
Lonnie Eggers, vice president and chief operating officer of the Omaha-based No Frills Supermarkets chain, said last August that No Frills is used to competition and expects it from the neighborhood markets Walmart also is planning in the metro area. Walmart officials said Monday there could be as many as eight or nine of the grocery-only stores.
Eggers said he was ready for the challenge, will work hard to stay successful and hopes customers see the need to shop at independent, locally owned supermarkets.
Walmart's plan is to tear down a long-vacant Baker's Supermarket and a Family Dollar store that closed in February to make way for the nearly 179,000-square-foot, full-service discount store. Mid-K Beauty Supply is expected to relocate in a strip shopping center on the property.
Plans were submitted to the city and will need approval. The developer also will be seeking approval of tax-increment financing to help with infrastructure costs. Those approvals are expected to take the rest of this year, meaning construction would start in spring 2013.
As of Jan. 31, Walmart employed 10,631 associates in Nebraska. The average wage for a regular, full-time hourly worker was $11.87 an hour.
"We look forward to providing job opportunities and career choices, from seniors looking for supplemental income to young people wanting to gain work experience to associates looking to build a career," said Jim Canney, market manager for Walmart stores in Omaha.
Potential job seekers can visit www.careers.walmart.com. The retailer also will create temporary jobs during the store's construction phase.
Moore said she's happy to that the store will employ so many to "bring an influx of money into the community."
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