Sunday, December 14, 2003

Work on Wal-Mart expansion under way

Ravine to be filled in before construction

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

ALEXANDRIA - An expansion of the Wal-Mart store here could heat up what has become a hotbed of retail activity in Campbell County.

Work began Saturday on site preparation of a project to expand the Wal-Mart store at the Village Green Shopping Center on U.S. 27 in Alexandria into a Wal-Mart Supercenter, according to Joe Kramer of Cardinal Engineering in Wilder.

Crews will spend about a year filling in a deep ravine just north of the Wal-Mart store, with construction not set to start until September 2004, said Kramer, whose firm was hired by the project developer, Jeffrey Anderson of Norwood.

"We've prepared a grading and utility location plan to fill that ravine in," Kramer said Friday. "That will allow Wal-Mart to expand to a Super Wal-Mart. At least that's what we've been told."

Calls to Wal-Mart's corporate office in Arkansas were not returned Friday. Anderson, who developed Rookwood Commons and is planning to revitalize the Crestview Hills mall into an outdoor "lifestyle" center, was out of town and could not be reached to comment on the work.

Specifics on the construction to expand the store are not yet required to be filed with Alexandria's planning and zoning commission, said Mayor Dan McGinley. The only documents required are for the excavation and site preparation work, he said.

City leaders would have to approve any expansion of the existing store and that expansion would have to meet certain zoning requirements.

But McGinley said the current project is being started with an eye toward expanding the existing Wal-Mart.

"I'm excited about it," McGinley said. "It's a very successful store that, selfishly, provides a great deal of tax base to the city."

McGinley did not have exact figures Friday on the amount of tax the store currently generates or how much an expanded store could mean to the city.

According to information posted on Wal-Mart's corporate Web site, a regular Wal-Mart store is typically no larger than 125,000-square-feet compared to a Wal-Mart Supercenter, which can be as large as 220,000 square feet.

Supercenters carry a wider selection of items than a regular Wal-Mart, including groceries, and offer services like banks, hair salons, photo centers, restaurants, auto maintenance and in some cases, employment agencies.

A supercenter can employ up to 500 people while a traditional Wal-Mart has about 150 employees, according to the company's Web site.

The U.S. 27 corridor in Campbell County is growing into a major retail corridor. Just south of Alexandria in Cold Spring, Meijer and Kohl's have recently opened while a Kroger grocery store is under construction.

Several restaurants have also recently opened, including O'Charley's, Longhorn Steakhouse, Ruby Tuesday and White Castle.

Wal-Mart is also building a supercenter on 3L Highway in Fort Wright just north of Interstate 275.


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