VALRICO — The property adjacent to the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library that caused local residents great consternation and eventually led to a 2013 lawsuit saw its first store open this week.
The new Walmart Supercenter opened at Crest Pointe Towne Center on Wednesday with Raymond, the Rays mascot, giveaways, cake and specials.
"I came to see out of curiosity," said local resident and mother of two Gisel Guzman, who arrived at 7:30. "I live in Walmart. You know how it is when you leave your kids early in the morning. You can't go anywhere else. This is your mall, the 'Valrico Mall.'"
Walmart will anchor the 43.5-acre project and replace an older Walmart at 949 E Bloomingdale Ave., which transferred employees to the new location.
Other confirmed tenants for the property at 2140 Bloomingdale Ave. include Starbucks, Wendy's and Chick-fil-A. The site also includes more than 14 acres reserved for residential housing.
Before construction began in 2015, residents protested against Redstone Development, citing a concern for increased traffic in an already congested area as well as a claim that the county violated its own rules and policies in approving development of the site.
In 2014 the residents, collectively known as Coordinated Active Neighborhoods for Development Organization, settled their lawsuit against the developer and the county.
George Niemann was part of that effort. He still lives locally and frequents the area, but says he will not patronize the new Walmart because of the way it came about.
"I'm very disappointed with the final outcome of this issue," Niemann said. "It's obvious that our community did not want a shopping center of this type.
"Our county government has failed us miserably with this supersized, high-density and high-impact development that won't improve our quality of life one iota. Out of protest, I don't plan to shop at that Walmart. I would love it if the community did likewise."
Walmart, which paid $4.6 million for approximately 26 acres at the intersection of Lithia Pinecrest Road, said the new 24-hour store created approximately 200 new jobs and will offer groceries where the original location on Bloomingdale Avenue did not.
"We are excited to open just in time for the start of spring, and provide our friends and neighbors with everything they need to start the season off right," said Peter Peck, store manager.
The store offers a full pharmacy and a free store pickup service for items ordered on Walmart.com. Visit them online at facebook.com/walmart941.
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