SOUTHFIELD — Rumors of a Wal-Mart coming to Southfield began late in 2011, and just as the one-year mark is approaching, representatives for the supercenter and city officials are moving forward to explore more concrete plans.
City Planner Terry Croad explained that Wal-Mart didn’t approach the city with a formal plan to purchase the old St. Bede location at 12 Mile and Southfield roads until October of this year. The proposed store would span 130,124 square feet and would include general merchandise, groceries, a garden center and other features, according to the proposal.
Croad said that, right now, they remain in the planning stages, and the next step is a public hearing set for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 28 in the Southfield City Council Chambers to take residents’ and local stakeholders’ concerns.
Joe Kohn, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, confirmed that the sale is pending as final decisions are made.
“A sale from the Archdiocese of Detroit to the Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust is still pending and presently in the ‘due diligence’ phase. The sale is conditional upon Wal-Mart’s site plan receiving approval from the Southfield City Council and/or Planning Commission,” he explained.
There are still many details to mull over, and it might take several more months before a set plan of action is reached, Croad explained. At best, he said Wal-Mart would anticipate opening the location in 2014, though that’s “putting the cart before the horse,” since there are many steps to approving the development.
The Southfield Planning Commission started looking at the proposal in-depth at study sessions Nov. 7 and 14, first discussing rezoning and site plans, then potential issues like parking and traffic flow.
“If the (Planning Commission) is comfortable making a recommendation Nov. 28, after a public hearing, then it is likely that City Council may hold a study session in December and further review and (take) action in January 2013,” Croad said.
The vacant 75,000-square-foot property that housed the church and school from 1954 to 2007 is close to a residential area, and in addition to rezoning, Croad said they must consider walls and landscaping to contain the store, as well as the logistics of traffic circulation and light pollution.
The property also shares a parking lot with Southfield Funeral Home, owned for nearly four decades by Jerry Yono, another stakeholder in the process.
When Yono first caught wind of the Wal-Mart rumors, he was uneasy about the change, though his son, Anthony Yono, said they are completely comfortable moving forward with potential new neighbors now.
“Everything was up in the air; construction, the parking situation, the layout. … It seems now, though, that everything will flow in a good manner. They have done a good job working with us,” Anthony Yono said. “The corner really needs something to be done with it — it’s getting to be an eyesore, some would say.”
The Yonos have purchased two houses behind their site, on Kesh Street, and are prepared to construct a parking lot for the funeral home there, if Wal-Mart is developed. Anthony Yono added that, since processions typically don’t come from the funeral home itself, and that the funeral home is only serving its patrons for a total of four hours on the weekend; they do not anticipate congestion or conflict for their business.
Croad said that the public hearing is a formal opportunity for locals to bring up any other issues to the Planning Commission, though a group of residents have been attending the study sessions from the beginning.
Southfield resident Pamela Gerald said she and a handful of other residents believe that Wal-Mart is a good idea, but that the location is not.
“We are not opposed to Wal-Mart coming to the area. … It’s just the wrong location — there’s already a traffic problem there and to build a Wal-Mart … would just add to the problem,” she said.
Gerald noted that they would like to see Wal-Mart built near Northland Mall instead.
“We shouldn’t allow big developers to come in and open up shop where they want to; we need them to come into areas we need to revitalize,” she added.
Croad said that the space is suitable for such development, if the plans manifest.
“I look at the master plan and the city did look at mixed-use development for that corner. Whether Wal-Mart is the right development, we don’t know; we are still going through that process,” he said. “Southfield Road can hold up to 90,000 cars per day and is averaging 48,000. Being on that intersection, that parcel lends itself to some kind of commercial development.”
According to Eric Hingst, a Wal-Mart representative who appeared at the Nov. 7 study session, the Wal-Mart would create an estimated 240-270 new jobs for locals and would generate approximately $350,000 in tax revenue for the city — one-third of which would be used for the city’s general fund.
There are 90 Wal-Mart stores in Michigan currently, he said, and the proposed Southfield store would be nearly 50,000 square feet smaller than typical Wal-Mart Supercenters.
Robert Matko of CESO, a civil engineering firm, said the store would be similar to the recent Wal-Mart built in Novi Town Center.
According to Hingst and Matko’s presentation, general merchandise will account for 69,700 square feet of the proposed store, 28,300 will be for grocery, 8,800 will be for ancillary goods, 10,000 square feet will be for a garden center, 2,700 square feet will be for offices and 10,800 square feet will be for a stockroom.
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