Construction of new Walmart Supercenter well under way in East Tampa

Although opposition to big-box retailers like Walmart have become commonplace in some regions of the country, the reaction by the majority in the Seminole Heights/East Tampa area towards a new Walmart Supercenter to be constructed at 1720 E. Hillsborough Avenue hasn't risen to a significant level since the project was first announced a year and a half ago.

Calling the new store a big "win-win" for the community, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn today hailed the fact that with a new Walmart, the community will no longer be part of a "food desert."

"The folks in East Tampa have had to rely on convenience stores and get charged exorbitant prices for food that is not particularly healthy," Buckhorn said at the official groundbreaking ceremony this morning. "But to know now that there will be healthy alternatives available to the folks in East Tampa that they can walk to or they can take public transportation to, that these alternatives are reasonably priced ... offers the opportunity for a much healthier existence."

Buckhorn and City Councilman Frank Reddick boasted about the purported 300 jobs that the Supercenter will bring to the neighborhood. "That's a lot of individuals that are currently unemployed," Reddick reminded the audience assembled on the construction site today.

The property used to be the home to a Abraham Chevrolet dealership, but has been vacant for many years before Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. purchased the 11.35-acre site for $4.95 million in 2013.

The property taxes generated from the new store will go toward the East Tampa Community Redevelopment Agency. 

Todd Owen, Market Manager responsible for the E. Hillsborough Walmart, said that the store will include a fresh-food department, a deli, bakery and "low-priced" pharmacy area.  

Councilman Reddick was downright giddy at the groundbreaking ceremonies, and he effusively praised the big-box retailer for investing in the East Tampa area. "We've been asking for this for many years," he said.

"It's not often that we get a major business to come into this community," the city councilman said today. "But now that we have one, we have to be supportive. We're going to have to tell our friends and neighbors that this is a valuable product in our community. And the most important thing is the tax revenue that it will generate for the East Tampa community. I'm excited about this opportunity. I'm excited that Walmart decided to come here."

Not every community is so welcoming towards getting a new Walmart, however.Bowing to community pressure in January of 2013, the HIllsborough County Commission rejected a zoning application for Wal-Mart to begin construction of a new store at the corner of Dale Mabry Highway and Floyd Road in Carrollwood (leading to a lawsuit being filed by the prospective developer a month later).

There has been some criticism about this particular Walmart location, with some local residents decrying the potential problems with traffic and others calling them a bad corporate neighbor, but no organized opposition ever formed.

In the past year, there have been a couple of protests against the company in Tampa, calling out the Arkansas-based retailer for paying low wages to their employees.

The store is scheduled to open in early 2015.

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