For Wal-Mart, trying to expand their discount store in Punta Gorda, Florida has been like hitting their head against the WAL. And this week, local opposition finally drove them away — or at least, to another location. The giant retailer announced this week that it was giving up its effort to build a supercenter on Tamiami Trail. Now Wal-Mart has to sell the land (they want $6 million) and try to build at another location outside of the city. Several other communities in Manatee and Charlotte County have successfully knocked Wal-Mart’s plans off the table. In Manatee County, Wal-Mart sued the county commissioners, but eventually agreed to expand another location into a supercenter. In Punta Gorda, Wal-Mart admitted that it would have preferred to expand rather than move, but a company spokesman told the Sarasota Times, “there was some resistance from community groups directly surrounding the site. After several attempts at resolving those issues — and because we felt we really needed a Supercenter in that market — we decided on this new location.” The expanded footprint of the proposed supercenter fell into the deed-restricted community of Burnt Store Isles, where the local homeowner’s association fought aggressively to keep the retailer out. “We really thought this was an inappropriate place for a Supercenter,” a spokesperson said. “And we felt there were promises made in the past concerning the existing store that were not kept, and we had no faith that future promises would be kept. They were very arrogant, and I think that just strengthened our resolve. In the end, they walked away with a sense that we were united as a community against the expansion, and we were not going to stand for it.”
So now Wal-Mart has added the Punta Gorda store to their list of 310 “dark stores” on the market, and a company official claims Wal-Mart has had some interested parties. “Really this underscores Wal-Mart’s commitment to put these buildings back to use. It’s good for our bottom line, but it’s also good for the community as well, to not leave these buildings vacant,” the spokesman told the newspaper. Wal-Mart has a covenant in its real estate agreement that says a new owner cannot use an empty store for a discount store, grocery store or warehouse club, so the old building will not be used by a Wal-Mart competitor. The neighbors are glad to see the supercenter expansion become part of Florida history.