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Madison's Wal-Mart Supercenter still in planning stages

MADISON — When the long-awaited Wal-Mart Supercenter goes up in Madison, it’s almost guaranteed to draw some second looks from I-55 travelers

“You won’t recognize it as being a Wal-Mart,” promises Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler.

Known for its strict building requirements, the City of Madison is requiring Wal-Mart, like all other new building proposals, to submit architectural plans to the Board of Aldermen for approval. The city has been working with Wal-Mart for nearly three years on the design, trying to “find a theme that reflects what Madison is all about,” said Hawkins-Butler. “It’s been a challenge to get it built.”

Wal-Mart is expected to submit plans within the next 90 days, said the mayor. If approved, the new store would be located behind the Shell gas station near the I-55 Madison exit. Supercenters include a grocery department and employ between 200 and 550 people, depending on size. Madison’s store will be 200,000 square feet — one of the larger Supercenters the company builds.

Wal-Mart community affairs manager Daphne Davis said although the company has not yet filed an application with the city, Wal-Mart is committed to building a store there. The company looks for areas where there’s an opportunity to serve customers, said Davis, and with Madison’s growing population, the market looks favorable for Wal-Mart’s success.

Madison County’s population, which now stands at nearly 75,000, is expected to reach almost 83,000 countywide in 10 years.

From the first shovel of dirt, construction will take about 10 months, said Davis, “but we still have a lot of work ahead of us before we can start.”

To date, there are about 900 Supercenters in the U.S., not including the discount stores and SAM’s Clubs. Wal-Mart opened 150-175 Supercenters in 2000 and expects to open about the same amount this year. Twenty-nine Supercenters opened on March 14.

Madison’s building requirements were put in place some 20 years ago to protect residents and ensure property values would not decline, said Hawkins-Butler, adding that the city has done battle with some potential builders. Madison’s requirements include small signage and landscaping, among other stipulations.

“We’ve enjoyed working with Madison city officials,” said Davis. “It’s going to be a very special project.”

Contact MBJ Staff Writer Kelly Russell Ingebretsen at (601) 364-1027.

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