There are already 3 Wal-Mart stores within 15 miles of Springfield Township, Pennsylvania, in Mercer County. Two of these stores are supercenters in New Castle and Hermitage. The discount store in Grove City is only 8 miles away from Springfield. The township has a population of only 2,000 people, but Wal-Mart has proposed building a superstore there that will likely cause their Grove City discount store to shut down. Although local officials might have expected the store to be further along by now, the Sharon Herald newspaper reports this week that Wal-Mart has not yet scrapped the project as it has done this year in many other communities, as part of its supercenter meltdown. “Generally speaking, nothing has changed with the project” in recent months, Wal-Mart’s public affairs manager told The Herald. “There haven’t been any new developments. We’re still working through the necessary permits,” At the end of 2007, Wal-Mart Stores East LP paid more than $3.55 million to buy eight parcels, plus another three parcels. But they dropped their developer, ASC Development of Pittsburgh, and instead of leasing the proposed store, they will now own it themselves. “We aren’t going to be using (ASC) as the developers in the project any longer,” Wal-Mart said. ASC was the developer associated with the Wal-Mart fiasco in Kilbuck, Pennsylvania, where a huge landslide during construction forced the retailer to abandon the site. When the mud slide occurred,Wal-Mart told officials in Springfield that they were sticking with ASC, but the two parties slid apart, and Wal-Mart is now proceeding on its own. Last June, when Wal-Mart began canceling projects, it was not clear if the Springfield superstore would survive the cutback. But on January 28th, Wal-Mart came to the Springfield Planning Commission with a superstore plan — but they shrunk the size. The superstore has gone from 200,000 s.f. to roughliy 170,000 s.f. The company reduced the store size, says the local zoning officer, “which means wetlands there will no longer have to be disturbed,” according to The Sharon Herald. The township still has to approve the final site plan. The township is expected to review a preliminary site plan on March 24th.
The Springfield township supercenter will replace the existing Wal-Mart in Grove City, so the net gain to the local trade area is just another grocery store. And the net job gain will be negligible, because Wal-Mart’s grocery sales will largely be drawn from existing grocers in the area. Springfield, with its population of 2,000, couldn’t support a supercenter for two weeks. This location is simply Wal-Mart’s way of shutting down Grove City, which it clearly chose not to expand, which would have been the environmental preference. Local officials seem unconcerned with the environmental impacts of this store, or the fact the Springfield’s superstore will draw its revenues from Grove City. Because Mercer County has no regional land use planning, this kind of checkers game of stores ‘jumping’ each other benefits the corporation, but is wasteful of the land. Readers are urged to email Springfield Township Planning Commission Chairman Mike Sebak at [email protected] with this message: “The township does not need another Wal-Mart. You already have two supercenters within easy access, and this project will leave Grove City with an empty Wal-Mart building. This represents no new retail service for Springfield residents, why would you let them compromise a wetlands area, or proceed with such a huge store? In the last sixteen years, your population has increased by only 86 people. You have no market demand to absorb all this new capacity — it will come from other merchants’ bottom line. When Wal-Mart opens, you will lose other local grocery stores. This store is nearly 3 times the size of football field, and should be rejected as too intense a land use.”