Wal-Mart coming back for neighborhood meetings in Plymouth

It has been more than eight months since the Plymouth City Council repealed the one-year ordinance prohibiting development on the site of the nearly vacant Four Seasons Mall. The owners of the property, Wal-Mart, still haven’t submitted an application to build a store on the site.

The reason for the delay is to ensure that the building plan is consistent with the community’s vision and the city’s goals, said Wal-Mart’s spokeswoman Lisa Nelson.

Wal-Mart plans to hold several neighborhood meetings this fall to obtain feedback and input that can then be implemented into the ultimate application, she said.

The plan for the 150,000 to 180,000 square-foot Supercenter will not only be shaped by the neighbors’ request and comments but also by the city’s guiding principles for the site, which were approved by the council last winter.

During the one-year development moratorium, city staff extensively researched the Four Seasons Mall site to determine market demand, potential future uses for the site and a framework the council can use when reviewing and evaluating future development proposals.

That framework is essentially the guiding principles – a set of standards that focus on land use and urban design, architecture, transportation and connectivity and storm water treatment techniques.

Larson said she is absolutely certain that Wal-Mart will “not have any problem meeting the guidelines and design standards.”

The land currently occupied by the 34-year-old Four Seasons Mall at the corner of Highway 169 and Rockford Road is a great location, Larson added.

The $10.6 million Wal-Mart shelled out to purchase the land will bring commerce and redevelopment to an area that has been lacking it for years, she said.

Currently, the only business remaining in the 117,000 square-foot mall is Kaplan Professional Schools.

In response to the statement that some city staff does not think the site is conducive for a big box retailer, Larson said that Wal-Mart has completed extensive research and she would beg to differ.

“Why would Wal-Mart purchase the property if we didn’t think it would be successful?” she questioned.

According to the market study conducted at the request of the city, the projected market demand for the site could only accommodate 85,000 square- feet of retail space, significantly smaller than the Wal-Mart that is envisioned for the site.

The Community Development Director for Plymouth Steve Juetten said city staff agrees with the findings of the market study.

“[City staff] are currently of the opinion that the Four Seasons Mall site and surrounding roadways could not accommodate a big box retailer of that size,” he said.

According to the city’s 2030 comprehensive plan, the site is a good candidate for mixed use to include commercial, retail, office and potentially senior housing.

Because the site is zoned neighborhood commercial, “rationale would need to be presented by [Wal-Mart] that would support a rezoning,” he said. And there is “no guarantee that it would be rezoned.”

The date for the first neighborhood meeting isn’t set.

“Wal-Mart looks forward to working with city staff, the community and elected officials,” said Nelson.

Meanwhile Wal-Mart has announced it will be hiring approximately 300 associates to work at a new store slated to open late this summer in Brooklyn Center. To facilitate applications, the retailer has opened a temporary hiring center at 1200 Shingle Creek Crossing in Brooklyn Center, located at Highway 100 and Bass Lake Road.

The majority of new associates will begin work this month to help prepare the store for its grand opening later this summer.