NORTH ADAMS -- Ready to shop?
The Walmart Supercenter project on Curran Highway officially broke ground on the one-year project Friday morning with a ceremony attended by local officials, construction workers and Walmart employees.
While, in the background, a corps of heavy machinery began the daunting task of preparing the site for what will be a 150,200-square-foot building, state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi lent a symbolic hand with words of encouragement.
"The project was a long haul," Cariddi said. "It started when the mayor [Richard Alcombright] and I were city councilors, and it was a tough row to hoe, so I think they were smart in sticking with the project and seeing it through becausethis area is really perfect for this type of store."
Alcombright voiced a similar sentiment, identifying the massive store as both a positive sign for the city's future and a job creator.
"The point I really want to drive home here is Walmart chose to locate a Supercenter in North Adams," Alcombright said. "It shows continued faith in the city and Northern Berkshire as a good place to locate. A Supercenter becomes a destination."
Walmart Stores Inc. has set its sights on a completion date of June, 2013. Construction costs are estimated at $6.1 million.
The Supercenter will include a general merchandise area, a full grocery store, pharmacy and eye care center, and a 1,390-square-foot Dunkin' Donuts. Walmart Stores
In an interview after the ceremony, Alcombright shed additional light on his view of the new store -- as part of what he hopes to be a "diverse" future economy for the city.
"It sets up the infrastructure for growth," Alcombright said. "I don't think any community is healthy without a diverse economy, and we're pretty diverse. There's a lot of positive things going on around here. This is just a part of that, and it's a big one...It comes down to jobs. Jobs will sustain households and that sustains homeownership."
It's estimated that the new store will bring over 100 jobs to the city.
Alcombright added that the Supercenter is poised to bring in out-of-state commerce from Vermont and New York.
Some residents have voiced concerns over the possible reuse of the former Walmart building, also on Curran Highway. Walmart officials said they have a plan for that, too.
"Walmart has an entire division devoted to re-tenanting stores, and is working hard to fill this space that will most likely be empty in late Spring of 2013 when our new store opens," said Chris Buchanan, Walmart's Director of Public Affairs.
Local business owners also chipped in to the realm of opinion, with Tony Esposito, Store Manager of Greenbergs on Curran Highway, and Bart Raser, owner of Carr Hardware on State Road, each expressing confidence in their respective stores.
"We think it's great," Esposito said. "It's going to increase the traffic to my store. Over the long term it may effect the overall economy negatively, but I'm no expert on the subject."
Raser's comments revealed a similar leaning.
"At this point the project is happening so there's no point in being anything but positive," Raser said. "Our basic mentality is the pie is only so big and obviously they'll be a significant competitor, but we welcome the good healthy competition. On a personal level I'm not a big fan of Walmart Supercenters -- what they do to smaller business is pretty obvious and disappointing. I have experience dealing with it and a knowledge of what it's done nationally. But I'm confident in what Carr Hardware can do for its customers -- we'll come out slugging and we will prosper."
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