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Wal-Mart won't build Holiday supercenter after all

HOLIDAY — Six months after winning a three-year battle with residents over its location, Wal-Mart has killed plans for a supercenter at State Road 54 and Grand Boulevard, store officials said Friday.

The retail giant said the Holiday store was the casualty of a slowing economy and a year-long internal review of the prospects for new stores.

"We were going through the re-evaluation, and the things we look at are based on growth and what's going on in the economy, as well as how a new store impacts existing stores," said spokeswoman Quenta Vettel.

Residents had argued that putting a supercenter at the proposed site was like trying to squeeze a big turkey into a small pot. In November, county officials overruled their protests.

On Friday came a reversal of fortune for neighbors.

"I'm so excited," said Cynthia Besio, among the leaders of the neighbors' opposition. "I don't know if it was anything we did. It may have been just the economy. But I don't care."

Wal-Mart bought the 22-acre property for $6.3-million in 2005 from flea market owner Hardy Huntley and will now put the property up for sale, Vettel said.

But Besio said the biggest loser may be Pasco County. Wal-Mart had committed to about $4-million worth of road improvements in the Holiday area as part of its development.

But Michele Baker, chief assistant county administrator, said much of the roadwork was required only because of the store's impact on traffic.

"The vast majority of the $4-million was on access and concurrency," she said, using the technical term for the law that requires infrastructure to keep up with growth. "If there's no Wal-Mart, we don't need the vast majority of those improvements."

There was better news for Wal-Mart to the east.

Another supercenter proposed at the apex of Dale Mabry Highway and U.S. 41 is still on track, Vettel said. It will replace a smaller and aging Wal-Mart in the Village Lakes Shopping Center in Land O'Lakes.

"We hope to start construction at the end of the year, and it's our hope to open before October next year," Vettel said.

Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at cyap@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4613.

Wal-Mart won't build Holiday supercenter after all 05/09/08 [Last modified: Monday, May 12, 2008 9:03am]
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