LARGO — Missouri Avenue is a busy, well-traveled road. Yet one of the most blighted spots around here is the intersection of Missouri and Rosery Road.
On the southeast corner is a notoriously unsightly gas station that has been boarded up for years. Behind that is a vast, empty parking lot of an abandoned Kmart. On the opposite corner, to the northwest, there's a vacant former Publix.
Now things are finally starting to happen here.
Walmart plans to move across Missouri Avenue, leaving its aging but busy store on the intersection's southwest corner. Starting in November, Walmart will construct a more modern store on the intersection's southeast corner, where the vacant Kmart now stands. That Kmart, which was built in 1970, closed late last year and will soon be demolished.
Walmart's move across the street from 1111 Missouri Ave. N to 990 Missouri has been in the works for some time. The new store will be neither a supercenter nor one of Walmart's grocery store-sized neighborhood markets. It will be a regular Walmart — nearly 119,000 square feet, similar in size to the current store on Missouri.
"Everybody's been waiting for this for a long time. That's an area that's long been in need of being redeveloped," said Tom Morrissette, president of the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce. "That's one of the main gateways to Largo's downtown core."
Walmart isn't commenting on the move. City officials think the main benefit of the move for Walmart is to get a slightly better location. It will have the entire shopping center to itself.
The new property will be more heavily landscaped with a reconfigured parking lot, trees and shrubs throughout the lot, and with big Medjool palms in a new median to be built along Rosery Road, said Largo planner Tom Wojtkiw.
"It should look nice compared to what's there now," Wojtkiw said.
So, what happens when the current Walmart on Missouri becomes vacant? The shopping center there is owned by Kimco Realty Corp., and in addition to the Walmart, it contains an Aldi supermarket and a Buddy's Home Furnishings. "Kimco feels confident they'll be able to fill that space," said Teresa Brydon, the city of Largo's economic development manager.
And what will happen to the boarded-up gas station on the corner? A couple of gas station companies have expressed interest. "I think they're waiting for Walmart to get under way. It shouldn't be long after that," Brydon said.
New Wawa coming
Meanwhile, another Wawa convenience store and perhaps an L.A. Fitness franchise will be coming to the northwest corner of the intersection of Missouri and Rosery, city officials say.
L.A. Fitness has talked with the city about the possibility of demolishing the vacant Publix there and replacing it with a fitness center. But the fitness chain has not yet submitted official plans to do so.
Wawa is planning to build a store at 1215 Missouri Ave., a vacant lot on the west side of Missouri. It will be just north of a BankAtlantic location at the intersection's northwest corner.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151.