You've heard the standard complaints when a new Walmart is coming to a neighborhood: No to the heavy traffic, lights and noise from the around-the-clock operation.
But you aren't hearing that in north Omaha.
The retail giant is planning to build a new Supercenter at 50th Street and Ames Avenue on the site of a former Baker's store. The store will have a grocery department with fresh produce, meat and dairy, a bakery and deli, apparel, household items, electronics, a pharmacy and an outdoor garden center.
“The closest thing in the neighborhood was Target on Saddle Creek Road, and when that moved to Crossroads (in 2006), that left a void in the community,” said Bobbie A. Davis, who lives a few blocks from the proposed Walmart. “It's going to have an economic impact, especially with the jobs it will bring.”
Davis said she's eager to have quick access to groceries and other products.
After a recent neighborhood meeting involving area residents and city and Walmart officials, meeting organizer Terrie Jackson Miller concluded: “A lot of people in the neighborhood are really excited about it.”
“There are some retail stores in the north Omaha community, but we need a larger variety,” said Miller, executive director of the North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance. “Walmart is a one-stop shop. You can get everything there from baby clothes and underwear to printer cartridges and groceries.”
That excitement is a contrast to what Walmart officials often hear.
In Lincoln, hundreds of people gathered recently to oppose having Walmart as a neighbor. The company plans to start construction on a Supercenter at 27th Street and Grainger Parkway in Lincoln this fall, with an opening planned in 2013. Neighbors expressed worries about the store bringing traffic, crime and pollution in their quiet, upscale neighborhood.
Omaha neighbors also opposed the Walmart Supercenter at 72nd and Pine Streets before it opened in 2008. They were concerned about the night hours, traffic and noise.
But in north Omaha, Ronald Jefferson is hoping a new Walmart does bring more traffic and commercial action. “Walmart is going to bring a lot of opportunities to north Omaha, and many other businesses will locate there. It's a great opportunity.”
Jefferson said he hopes Walmart will consider local contractors for the construction of the new facility. At least a handful of area residents at the meeting pressed for a commitment from Walmart to hire from the neighborhood.
Jim Canney, regional general manager for Walmart stores in Omaha, said he could make no promises but said the company would do its best to engage the north Omaha community in the entire process, including the construction and hiring of about 300 store employees.
When the store was announced, Canney said, “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.”
Officials from the City of Omaha and Walmart said the retailer has a track record of choosing local contractors for construction. For example, local businesses were involved in the construction of the store at 72nd and Pine.
Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray, whose district includes the site, agreed that the new store would spur other development, telling people at the neighborhood meeting that the new store already has sparked interest from other businesses and could potentially mean more work for local contractors and longer-term employees.
Construction of the $30 million Supercenter in north Omaha is expected to begin in 2013 with completion in March or April of 2014. Demolition of the former Baker's Supermarket could begin this year, pending approval of the building plan by city officials. Baker's, 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.
Area residents are praising Walmart for the new, 178,000-square-foot facility's design plans.
The site plans call for improving 50th street from Ames Avenue to just south of Grand Avenue.
The traffic signal at 50th and Ames will be replaced with new signals just to the west, where the main store driveway meets Ames.
Larry Jobeun, an attorney representing Walmart, said the intersection at 50th and Ames is not a high traffic intersection, and moving the traffic signal to the main entrance will help circulation and lessen the volume on 50th Street.
The design also calls for providing direct pedestrian access, with stairs between the sidewalk along 50th street and the front entrance of the store.
Jobeun said city rules require shopping centers to have pedestrian access, but the Ames store pedestrian access will be especially beneficial for residents who have little or no transportation.
Davis said the design will make it easier for people to get to their jobs as well as for shopping. “It makes it possible especially for people without a lot of transportation to have services available to them within walking distance.”
One area resident said she was going to be particularly happy to be able to buy her children's back-to-school shoes without leaving the neighborhood. Another said she's excited she won't have to drive for miles to the Walmart near 99th Street and Military Road or to the one in Council Bluffs just to see a variety of products.
Jobeun said it's been great to have “full support” from the north Omaha community.
“I think it's fairly obvious that north Omaha is very under-served from a retail standpoint,” he said. “This will allow residents to buy shoes and groceries in one place, and it's good for the entire area. We are taking a vacant building (site) and putting it back into use.”
Davis said it's a win-win situation for everyone.
“In order to spend, people need to have jobs,” she said. “There's a greet need for employment in this area, and Walmart will help fulfill that need.”
Contact the writer: 402-444-1336, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/LeiaMendoza