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Walmart plans to demolish Kmart in Largo, build store on site

LARGO — Walmart is on the move. But it's not headed far.

City staff are in the final stages of approving a plan for Walmart to raze the Kmart at 990 Missouri Ave. N and build a new Walmart there, just across the street from the Walmart at 1111 Missouri Ave. N.

There will not be a Walmart across the street from a Walmart, though. Walmart will just be moving, according to Largo Community Development Director Carol Stricklin. Walmart officials did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Kmart spokeswoman Kim Freely confirmed the struggling discount store is closing its Largo location. Kmart employees were told Sept. 28 about the closure, Freely said, and will be able to apply for openings at other Sears and Kmart locations (Sears Holding Corp. owns Kmart).

Job prospects within the company may be slim, though. Sears Holding announced in December it would close up to 120 Sears and Kmart locations across the country. Freely declined to say how many people the Largo store employed. Its Seminole location, which closed last month, had 92 employees.

The new 123,000-square-foot Walmart will be roughly the same size as the Kmart, Stricklin said. The benefit to Walmart, Stricklin guessed, is to get a slightly better location, where it has an entire shopping center to itself.

While the move won't provide a major benefit to Largo from a jobs standpoint, Stricklin is pleased the development will ensure Walmart brings the Kmart site, built in 1970, up to current stormwater, traffic and pedestrian-access requirements.

"Essentially, we're taking a very old, substandard commercial site and bringing it up to today's standards," Stricklin said.

Largo held a neighborhood compatibility meeting at City Hall on Sept. 25, and 32 residents and property owners expressed concerns about traffic safety on nearby Rosery Road, landscaping and stormwater issues, Stricklin said. Staff assured them Walmart would be required to make improvements to its new location, including helping move a nearby Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority bus stop to the north, closer to the intersection of Missouri Avenue and Rosery Road.

There is no timeline on when the new Walmart will be built, or when the current Walmart will be closed. Kmart's Freely said her company's store will start a going-out-of-business sale Nov. 15 and will close its doors for the last time in January.

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or whobson@tampabay.com. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Walmart plans to demolish Kmart in Largo, build store on site 10/02/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 7:35pm]
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