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City gives approval for huge Wal-Mart

After being shut out of two other sites because of protests, Wal-Mart discovered how to work with its future neighbors and found a welcome home for the first Supercenter in south Pinellas County.

That put the discount giant on track for construction to begin in 2001 at 7901 U. S. 19 N, where the 12-screen Movies at Pinellas Park had been located. The drive-in church next door also will become a part of the 220,000-square-foot store.

The store will be open 24 hours a day.

The city has approved building plans.

"Their permits are sitting on the desk to come pick them up," said Tom Shevlin, the city's assistant community development director. "It's just a matter of them starting construction."

A snow and ice storm in Arkansas closed much of Wal-Mart's corporate headquarters Tuesday, and officials there were unable to comment about when construction would begin or what would be done with the existing store a half-mile up U.S. 19 once it closes.

In the past, Wal-Mart spokesmen have said that store likely will be leased or sold to another retailer.

The Supercenter will have a full-service grocery store, an auto lube center, and room for a gas station near the highway.

The store itself will have the same items as the existing store, but the aisles will be wider.

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