TOWN OF LOCKPORT, NY - A viewer contacted the Two On Your Side Tip-Line, regarding a long delayed retail project in Niagara County.
Andrew in Lockport wrote:
"I was wondering if you guys can find out what is going on with the vacant lot in Lockport that used to house the Lockport Mall. After years of votes, a vote passed to tear down the mall and build a Walmart Supercenter there. ... Now it's been years, nothing is happening, the tarps on the fences are blowing off and there is grass and weeds growing expansive on the premises, but that is all. Anything you can find out would help."
The weathered permits posted at the job sight give an indication of how long Lockport has been waiting for the proposed 184,000 square foot superstore, which is supposed to replace an existing Walmart a couple of hundred yards to the south, at the intersection of Shimer Drive and Transit Road.
The permits were issued in 2008, which was four years after Walmart initially expressed interest in building on the site of the now demolished Lockport Mall.
In the eight years since, the project has weathered court challenges, and even a brief bout of concern last year over the nesting of migratory gulls.
"I don't know how much more patient we can be as a community," Lockport Town Supervisor Marc R. Smith told WGRZ-TV regarding the inquiry. "We're really anxious at this point...we're getting to the point where we're getting rubbed a little raw, and I know people would like to see it started yesterday," Smith said.
After a lengthy absence, it was just within the last week that workers returned to the site.
However, members of a crew observed working there on Tuesday morning from DiMarco Construction of Rochester referred all of our questions to Walmart.
"Right now, Walmart is getting in and doing site work, which is water, gas, and electric hookups...sort of roughing in the utilities," said Smith. "Also there's a little bit of soil remediation going on where there was contaminated petroleum spilled there over the years. They're working with our attorney, our building department, getting all their permits put into place."
And while he can speculate that the project was delayed possibly due to the rough economy over the past few years, Smith can neither say for sure what the holdup has been or when the store might finally be constructed and open.
"(Walmart) is not telling us much of anything, and to be quite honest, over the last six to eight months the press has had a better success rate in contacting them than we have," Smith said.
Two On Your Side reached out to Walmart's Arkansas headquarters throughout Tuesday, and late that afternoon we received a call back from Bill Wertz, Walmart's director of community and media relations for the eastern U.S.
Wertz said he would try to get some answers to our questions, but had not gotten back to us by Tuesday evening.
Smith, who has been Town Supervisor for roughly as long as the project has been pending, told Channel 2 News, "we have never been given an exact date of when they're going to start anything... or finish the store."
Asked if that should not have been part of the deal in the first place, Smith replied, "No. They own the land and they have the rights to develop it as they see fit, as any other owner of property in America does."
Smith conceded however that in the future the town might seek firmer commitments regarding timetables from developers in the future.
The continued failure of the store to materialize after eight years is also affecting the town's ability to attract other retailers along Transit Road, because as they pitch businesses about the advantages of locating there, they would also like to cite the gobs of traffic such a store would generate. As well, the town remains eager to start collecting the gobs of property taxes a completed store would pay.
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