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SuperCenter planned stone’s throw from existing location

STARKVILLE — If you build it, they will come. To the Wal-Mart SuperCenter, that is.

Even though the city of Starkville already has an established Wal-Mart that was opened in the mid-1980s, a Wal-Mart SuperCenter, to be located a stone’s throw away, will open next year.

“That’s all it usually takes — a Wal-Mart to settle and business comes around it,” said Starkville Mayor Mack Rutledge. “That’s what happened the first time, and that’s what we expect will happen again. It’s a big project, and we’re pleased they chose Starkville to expand.”

Last week, city aldermen voted 6-0 to approve the location of the Wal-Mart SuperCenter. There have been a few rumblings from residents and developers about the location, who were concerned because the site is situated within 30 feet of a residential area, and because the site plan completely encompasses the existing parcel and does not leave room for further development.

“Before I approved it, I wanted to make sure there was going to be a landscaped buffer zone between the Super Wal-Mart and the residential area,” said Marie Lee, alderwoman. “And there will be a 30-foot landscaped buffer zone with trees. We’re delighted to have the economic opportunity, and can probably support it very well. I haven’t had any negative calls from my constituents about it.”

Construction on the 204,000-square-foot Wal-Mart SuperCenter will begin when the design phase is completed. The store will open in early to mid 2001. The building and land represent a $9-million investment, with another $9 million that will be spent on furniture, fixtures and inventory, Rutledge said.

“There was a bit of concern about the location — why not another parcel with more land? — so that everybody has an opportunity,” she said. “The Highway 12 area was sought after by Wal-Mart because there are a lot of communities to the west of Starkville that can be picked up. Plus, a huge amount of development is expected along the adjacent Highway 25 bypass, which is under construction.”

The Wal-Mart SuperCenter site is located near 11 square miles of newly annexed land at Mississippi 12, Mississippi 25 and the U.S. 82 bypass, which will be established as prime economic development and commercial land, but hasn’t come under a zoning plan yet.

“The guiding force in the annexation in 1998 was to include six miles of Highway 25 bypass under construction,” Rutledge said. “The full length of that will be available for commercial development. We also annexed about five or six miles of Highway 82, but it will have limited access. Three interchanges of Highway 82 will be within the city limits. Just south of interchange, a 200-acre site has been acquired for an industrial park and 30 acres for a business park, diagonally across from Wal-Mart SuperCenter. Starting north, everything fronting Highway 25 will be open for commercial development.”

The existing Wal-Mart is located less than half a mile away at the intersection of Mississippi 12 and Stark Road, referred to as Starkville Crossing.

“I’ve been assured by Wal-Mart property consultants that the property they will be vacating will be marketed concurrently with the construction of the new Wal-Mart,” Rutledge said. “I really feel confident it will be occupied by a viable business or businesses. I think this new Wal-Mart will keep traffic in town and will draw more traffic to town. Obviously, it will create a void when they vacate the present location, but I have a feeling it will be filled quickly.”

Some infrastructure improvements are already in the works, including the widening of Mississippi 12 to five lanes by the Mississippi Department of Transportation that will extend past the interchange of Mississippi 12 and 25.

“Stark Road, which runs north and south, is a city obligation,” Rutledge said. “The city recently had it overlaid because it was badly torn up, and we have restored it to a very good condition for a two-lane road. I definitely feel it needs to be widened to at least three lanes. On Stark Road, construction is going on from one end to the other, including a Dollar General store, eight-screen movie theater, cardiology clinic and funeral home. There’s already a big furniture store and other businesses in place.”

Has the city council heard from mom-and-pop stores that might fold with the advent of a bigger, better Wal-Mart?

“I’ve heard references, but no persistent complaints,” Rutledge said. “People here just tend to take Wal-Mart as a fact of life and plan business around it.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com or mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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