The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
‘A tremendous boon for Orange’
BY DAN McFARLAND
State and local officials began the final step in a years-long saga Tuesday by taking part in a groundbreaking ceremony for a Walmart Supercenter in Orange County.
“This is a textbook example of a local government and a business enterprise working together to make sure they come up with the best plan for both the community and for the business,” said House Speaker Bill Howell of Stafford County. “It is going to be a tremendous boon for Orange.”
The initial choice of a store site near the intersection of State Routes 3 and 20 in the Wilderness battlefield area ignited protests and a lawsuit from preservationists. Walmart eventually agreed to buy but not develop that site and find another.
The new site is about four miles west, at the intersection of Route 3 and Somerset Ridge Road.
Previous Board of Supervisors Chairman Lee Frame recalled skeptics’ comments he had received over the past year and recounted a conversation with “one guy who, after the first attempt, was absolutely certain that Walmart would never happen in Orange County.”
“He owes me $5 as soon as the first shovel turns,” Frame quipped Tuesday.
“We look forward to the services to our community, the jobs for our citizens and the revenue for our county that Walmart will provide,” he added.
Frame also praised the retailer’s efforts to alleviate residents’ concerns over the new site by providing buffering between Route 3 and the store.
“Route 3 is the main corridor through this end of our county, and this roadway lined with trees provides the kind of aesthetic image we want to project to our visitors. I hope other developments will continue this practice,” he said.
Supervisor Grover Wilson added his welcome. “Thank you, Walmart, for coming,” he said. “It’s been a long time, but this is a beginning for the Route 3 corridor to come alive.”
Current Board Chairman Teel Goodwin recalled Winston Churchill’s observation that, “Pessimists see the difficulty in every opportunity, and optimists see the opportunity in every difficulty.”
“I think we have found an opportunity here,” he said. “I believe that Walmart will help provide us with the beginning of a vibrant economy on the eastern end of our county to enhance our ability to take care of our citizens, and provide shopping in the locality, rather than having to drive to the next county.”
Adding a quote from his father, Goodwin noted, “You can’t stop progress. You either embrace it, or you get out of the way. I am here to embrace it.”
Walmart regional market manager Leah Belcher pledged continued cooperation with the community.
“This will be a good project for Orange County, which will provide our customers with a beautiful new store to serve the community,” she said. “We promise that we will be active and engaged corporate citizens and be strong partners for the local nonprofits, and the county, for many years.”
The 129,000-square-foot store, which will include a full grocery section, pharmacy and garden center, is expected to open in approximately one year. It is expected to employ about 300 people, and is projected to add nearly $800,000 in annual revenue to the county.
Its total annual economic impact is projected to be more than $20 million, Belcher said.