The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Walmart to break ground on Wilderness store Tuesday
BY DAN McFARLAND
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
After years of planning, controversy and compromise, the new Orange County Walmart Supercenter will open next June, company officials estimate.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the store is planned for 10 a.m. Tuesday north of State Route 3 at the intersection of Somerset Ridge Road.
Joining Walmart representatives will be House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell of Stafford County and members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, including Grover Wilson, whose District 5 includes the site, as well as District 4’s Lee Frame, who, as previous board chairman worked extensively with representatives of the retail giant during the earlier site selection and permit process.
Walmart’s earlier plan to build a 138,000-square-foot store northwest of the intersection of Routes 3 and 20 in the Wilderness battlefield area met with vocal opposition from the National Park Service, preservation groups, historians and legislators.
Friends of Wilderness Battlefield and six local residents filed a lawsuit challenging supervisors’ approval of a special-use permit to build on the site.
As the trial of that lawsuit was getting under way in January last year, Walmart announced it would preserve that property and seek a new site along the Route 3 corridor. The company purchased the original site for $3.5 million and reimbursed Orange County $717,000 for its costs in the case.
Four months later, it announced plans to build a 129,000-square-foot store on 16 acres of county resident Mansour Azimipour’s Germanna Heights development along Route 3, four miles west of the original site.
Walmart said the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Civil War Trust, the Piedmont Environmental Council and the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield all reviewed the new site and “agreed it is appropriate for economic development and will not diminish the experience of visitors to the nearby Civil War Wilderness battlefield.”
The timeline from groundbreaking to store opening normally takes about one year, Walmart’s East Coast Director of Community and Media Relations William Wertz said recently.
The company expects to name a store manager six months before the opening, with hiring to begin in the same time frame. The store is expected to create about 300 local jobs, with the majority of those being full-time positions, Wertz said.
Although Wertz said Walmart does not normally break out the economic impact for an individual store, a fiscal and economic impact study completed last June by Mangum Economic Consulting of Richmond estimates that the new Walmart would generate $800,000 in additional annual revenue for Orange County once it begins operating.
The supercenter would have a broader economic impact of $10 million in one-time direct and indirect economic impact during construction, and $26.3 million in annual direct and indirect economic impact during operation, the study said.
During construction, 87 one-time additional jobs would be created. A total of 348 additional jobs are estimated during its operation, 300 directly attributable to the new store plus an additional 48 indirectly attributable to economic ripple effects from local spending.
Walmart notes that the immediate retail market to be served by the new store is more affluent and much faster-growing than is typical for the state as a whole.
The proposed new development, the Mangum study predicts, should allow Orange to capture sales-tax revenue it is currently losing as residents travel outside the county to shop, as well as attract shoppers—and their dollars—from surrounding areas.
To reach the groundbreaking, turn north off Route 3 on Germantown Road into Germanna Heights, then go two blocks and turn left on A&K Boulevard. The event will be held in a tent.