TUMWATER - Construction has begun on a long-planned Walmart store in Tumwater, a $16 million building that was nearly six years in the making because of local opposition.
Work on the 172,000-square-foot store at 5900 Littlerock Road began this month. The store, on a 16-acre site between The Home Depot and Costco Wholesale, will have a pharmacy and a garden center and also sell food.
Tuwmater Planning Manager Chris Carlson said the company received its grading, land-clearing and building permits at the end of July and that the building is valued at $16 million. The store has 730 parking spaces, and most customers will access the store at either an entrance off Littlerock Road that it shares with Costco, or at Kingswood Drive. The joint Costco/Walmart entrance eventually will get a traffic signal, and a roundabout is going in at Kingswood, Carlson said.
A Wal-mart official could not be reached Thursday, but in a news release, the company announced that construction is expected to be complete next summer and that the store will employ 300 people. The average hourly wage for a full-time Walmart employee in Washington is $12.48, according to the news release.
Wal-mart, which also operates stores in Lacey and Yelm, first sought a store in Tumwater in December 2004, but it ran into opposition from community groups and unions who raised concerns about the effect of increased traffic and how additional competition might hurt other stores in the area.
Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet said he opposed the Walmart project at one time, when he was a city councilman.
“That stuff is behind us,” he said Thursday. “We processed the permits just like we would for any other project, and my staff will make sure those permits are complied to.”
In addition to concerns about traffic and competition, there were philosophical concerns that Wal-mart was not a community-friendly or employee-friendly business, Kmet recalled. Still, the company is contributing impact fees to help pay for the Littlerock Road improvements, and city staffers are making sure Wal-mart meets a tree preservation plan for the property. If it doesn’t, the business will be required to plant additional trees for the ones it cuts down, Kmet said.
Tumwater Livable Community is one of the groups opposed to Walmart. Member Sherry Buckner said some members are sad and others are hurt and dismayed by the trees being felled at the site. Overall, it feels like a loss and not a gain for the city, she said. Buckner also is disappointed that city officials never developed a vision for that area, with smaller, neighborly stores to make the city unique and special, rather than like every other town, she said.
It is thought that a big-box store will generate $100,000 to $300,000 in retail sales-tax revenue annually for the city, although sales could be taken from other businesses, Kmet said.
“The net effect will be hard to predict at this point, but the expectation is that there will be some net positive revenue coming to the city,” he said.
Tumwater could use a boost to its retail sales, according to year-over-year first-quarter state Department of Revenue data. In the first quarter of the year, taxable retail sales in the city fell 3.34 percent from the first quarter of 2009, the data show.
Construction also could boost employment for South Sound construction workers.
Scott Norman, project manager for general contractor Engineered Structures Inc. of Boise, Idaho, the company building the store, said 20 to 30 subcontractors will be hired for the work, employing up to 200 workers. That should put a dent in the number of jobs lost to the slower residential and commercial construction market. The Thurston County construction industry employs 800 fewer people than it did in July 2009, according to state Employment Security Department data.
As slow as the economy has been, retailers still have opened stores. Trader Joe’s opened a store on the city’s west side, and WinCo Foods is expected to open a store in the Lacey area this year.