Following Controversy, Delays, Walmart Now Set to Complete Downtown Store by Next Year
Stand at the corner of Campbell and Grand in Springfield, and you’ll hear more than just the whooshing of cars as they speed by.
After years of controversy, including city council’s decision to rezone the property for retail followed by an attempt to repeal and then a court battle, construction is now underway for a new Walmart Neighborhood Market close to downtown.
Construction started approximately two months ago, and is set for completion early next year, according to a Walmart representative.
The project has been in the works since 2012.
“There was a lot of citizen input, and frankly there was a lot of modification of the plan by Walmart to accommodate some of those complaints.”
That’s Thomas Rykowski, Springfield assistant city attorney. He explains that the lot was home to Calvary Temple, now called Life360 Church. The church came to the city with a proposal to rezone.
“They basically had a contract to sell the property to Walmart, Walmart was going to build a Neighborhood Market.”
The two entities then followed the basic procedures to get the property rezoned from residential to commercial.
“They went through all public hearings, the neighborhood meetings, they came to Planning and Zoning for the hearing.”
And that is when the project was halted, says Rykowski.
“There was a lot of opposition to the change over from that building.”
In the normal course of city planning and zoning, if you live in an area that will potentially receive a zoning change, you have a right to protest.
Opponents cited concerns over the potential negative impact to nearby businesses and, according to Rykowski, traffic flow around the new facility.
City Council approved the zoning change by a 5-4 vote in February 2013. Then came a referendum petition to send the decision to a public vote. But supporters of the sale obtained a temporary injunction, and the issue went to court.
Judges with Greene County and the Missouri Court of Appeals would later side with the church on the issue and denied opponents from intervening in the suit. The Missouri Supreme Court declined to take up the case, allowing both parties to move forward with the sale.
In response to the traffic concerns, Rykowski says Walmart placed traffic barriers at one of the new building’s exits.
“That really means you can’t leave Walmart and go into the neighborhoods, and you can’t come in and cut in through Grand and cut in through the neighborhoods to get there.”
Even the angle of the store will be strategic.
“Almost any time you develop something that has a store footprint that is pretty set, you’ll see them twisting it so they don’t necessarily bring the trucks in on the residential side,” says Rykowski.
As for the potential impact to other area businesses; Rykowski declined to speculate, but stated:
“The store’s not open yet, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”