Local Business

Monday, Apr 01 2013 09:59 PM

Walmart proposes new store off Olive Drive

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    By Jaclyn Borowski / The Californian

    Shoppers bustle in and out of the Walmart on Rosedale Highway in this file photo.

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BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

Walmart Stores Inc. has proposed building a new Supercenter on vacant land just west of Highway 99 and south of Olive Drive in unincorporated Kern County.

At about 194,000 square feet, including parking, it would become the chain's third largest of five stores in Bakersfield, assuming the city annexes the land as proposed. The Walmart on Colony Street near Panama Lane measures about 220,000 square feet, or about the same size as the one at Gosford and Pacheco roads.

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A Walmart spokeswoman said the new store will employ about 300 people.

"The location will offer a convenient one-stop-shopping choice for northwest Bakersfield and residents from Oildale and Kern County," spokeswoman Rachel Wall wrote in an email Monday afternoon. "The planned store will feature electronics, apparel, toys and home furnishings with the added convenience of a grocery store with fresh produce, bakery, deli and meat and dairy products."

Paul Hellman, a principal planner with the city of Bakersfield, said the project application makes it appear as though the new store would not involve closing another Walmart.

Wall was not clear on that point, but she seemed to downplay the possibility of a closure, stating that "The decision to open a store is based on customer demand, and a new Bakersfield store will allow us to serve our customers better."

Plans filed with the city in mid-March call for a 39-acre, phased-development shopping center. Besides the Walmart, the center would include four retail pads comprising more than 14 acres, or 128,000 square feet; two of the pads would be dedicated to drive-through restaurants.

The company's project application to the city states that the new store would feature an outdoor garden center and a pharmacy with a drive-through lane, and possibly a medical clinic, a vision and hearing center, a banking center, food service and a photo studio and photo-finishing center.

As a Supercenter, the store would include a substantial grocery component, and it would be larger than a standard Walmart.

Walmart is the world's largest retailer, based in Bentonville, Ark.

No construction schedule for the project has been set.

The property is already zoned for "service industrial" land uses, and so a zoning change will not be necessary, city officials said.

Construction probably will not begin soon because an environmental review must be done that Jennie Eng, another Bakersfield principal planner, said will take at least nine months. Also, Hellman said the annexation process can be a complicated, time-consuming process.

To the west of the project site sits a mini-storage facility, as well as property for an approved but unbuilt retail center. To the northwest, along Olive Drive, stand a gas station, a fast-food restaurant and a convenience store.

Land to the south of the project is vacant and zoned heavy industrial.

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