Toss one more set of superstore plans into the waste basket. Wal-Mart has trashed its 48th superstore since June of 2007. This time the community of Delaware, Ohio was cast aside. Delaware, with a population of roughly 32,500 people, already has a Wal-Mart discount store on Columbus Pike. There’s a Wal-Mart superstore less than 10 miles away in Lewis Center, Ohio. In fact, there are 7 Wal-Mart stores within 20 miles of Delaware, including 5 supercenters. So there is no shortage of cheap Chinese imports in the trade area. It was no major loss, this week, when city officials announced that Wal-Mart was abandoning plans to build a supercenter on Delaware’s southeast side. Suddenly, two and a half years of effort by the giant retailer came to a halt. The company had touted plans for a 176,312 s.f. superstore near Cheshire Road and U.S. Route 23. In fact, they started off proposing an even larger store. Wal-Mart actually bought 22 acres of land the same month that the company announced a major cutback in new store production. Wal-Mart invested $5.7 million for the property in June, 2007, according to This Week newspaper. City officials were prepared to process the company’s final development plans. The preliminary plans were approved by the Delaware City Council nine months ago. Then nothing happened. Without any warning, the project imploded this week. “Wal-Mart has informed the city that they are no longer pursuing the Cheshire Road site,” said Delaware’s community-affairs coordinator. “We are confident there will be renewed interest in the property and look forward to working with whoever is at the table.” But for now, nobody is at the table. Wal-Mart was apparently not prepared for this withdrawal to be made public, and told This Week that it would be putting out an official statement in a few days. That statement will be similar to the other 47 that preceeded it. Wal-Mart will say that its growth plans have changed, but that it still looks forward to serving its customers in Delaware county, and help them save money and live better. The pullback this week was hinted at in early conversations between Wal-Mart and the local media. Two months ago, Wal-Mart said it had no clear timetable for submitting final plans. A company spokesman hinted that the retailer was “prioritizing” future projects — but he added, there were no plans to abandon the Delaware supercenter, “at least not at this particular time.” City officials told the newspaper, “The city had been in regular contact with Wal-Mart, explaining the process going forward for final plat and plan approval. However, we had heard they were re-examining their new-store projects, nationwide, and that Delaware was one of them.” Since December of 2005, when the store first was revealed, many residents in Delaware had urged the city council to turn down the project. Those protests did have an impact — forcing Wal-Mart to shrink its original plan by roughly 14% from 203,819 s.f. The company also dropped a proposed gas station from the plan. Residents also pointed out that the supercenter would force the 96,000 s.f. Wal-Mart discount store on Columbus Pike to close, leaving the city with a big eyesore. Now that discount store is likely to remain open — but there are no guarantees even of that. The developer, Cheshire Developers LLC, now has to search for a big tenant to fill Wal-Mart’s hole.
Because the Delaware area is so saturated with existing Wal-Mart stores, it was no doubt hard for Wal-Mart to justify to itself the need for another supercenter. The company is trying to move away from cannibalizing its own stores, and the Lewis Center, Ohio supercenter is only 15 minutes away from this site. Readers are urged to email Delaware’s Mayor, Windell Wheeler, at [email protected] with the following message: “Mr. Mayor, you are the 48th. community that Wal-Mart has left at the altar since June of 2007. This supercenter pull out is a super time for Delaware to take another look at its zoning code. Your city should consider putting a cap of 100,000 s.f. on the size of retail buildings, and a provision that requires any retailer who leaves their building empty for more than 24 consecutive months, to pay a demolition bond equal to the cost of demolishing the building. The Wal-Mart supercenter really offered no added value to Delaware economically, and the many residents who opposed this store are no doubt thrilled that it is not coming. Use this meltdown to prevent suburban sprawl from over-running Delaware. One Wal-Mart in your city, is one more than enough.”