Walmart talks continue

Published 8:54 pm Tuesday, September 3, 2013

New talks with Walmart executives about a possible Atmore location brought the project a little closer to becoming a reality this week, according to Atmore Mayor Jim Staff.

Staff said city officials spoke with representatives of the retail giant several times over the last week in an effort to iron out the details of the proposed store, including its location.

Staff said Atmore officials have lobbied for the construction of a Walmart Supercenter in the Rivercane development area, but Walmart officials have been pushing for an “experimental store” to be located on a lot between Atmore Realty and Oak Hill Cemetery, on North Main Street.

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Staff said the experimental store that Walmart officials have proposed would basically amount to a scaled-down version of their regular facility.

“They say the experimental store would be about 60,000 square feet,” Staff said. “They say they only have one other store like it and it’s in Camilla, Ga.”
Staff said executives have listed reasons — such as the multitude of stores within an hour radius of Atmore — as factors in their decision to build an experimental store, as opposed to a larger “Supercenter.”

Staff said that while a Walmart of any size would benefit Atmore directly through sales taxes, he and other city officials would prefer a larger store.

“We’ve pushed to have (Walmart) out at Rivercane and by the interstate,” Staff said. “I would hate to see a Walmart negatively affect stores in Atmore. We want an asset out of Walmart. Not a liability.”

Staff also said his administration has taken steps to insure the privacy and respectful setting at Oak Hill Cemetery is preserved, should Walmart choose to build next door.

“We are asking that an six-foot masonry wall be built in between the store and the cemetery,” Staff said. “We want it to act as sort of a sound barrier and keep people from having to look at the store or step over trash while they are visiting and trying to pray.”

Staff said Tuesday that talks with Walmart about the city’s proposal of the wall have gone well. He said he feels the city is one step closer to closing on a deal.
“Things went really well,” he said. “We’re not 100 percent, but I think we are a lot closer to this actually happening.”