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Work on Wal-Mart supercenter set to begin in Beaver County

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Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, 11:27 p.m.
 

After a court battle over eminent domain and intervention by a state senator, Wal-Mart is ready to break ground on a Beaver County store that has been in the works for six years, officials said.

This month, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will begin work on the supercenter, which includes a grocery, behind the Northern Lights Shopping Center off Route 65 in rural Economy, borough officials said. Construction should take about nine months.

“It has to employ people, it has to bring money in and somewhat raise the standard of living. … I don't see how it can't,” council President Larry Googins said.

The 154,567-square-foot store will cost $9 million to $10 million, construction bid solicitations state.

Wal-Mart did not return calls for comment.

Court challenges and acquiring easements and a highway occupancy permit have held up the project, Mayor David Poling said.

Northern Lights, the biggest commercial development in Economy, opened in 1962.

The 609,405-square-foot shopping center has struggled since the decline of the steel industry took jobs and disposable income with it.

“It's kind of like a ghost town down there now,” Poling said.

Northern Lights will benefit from Wal-Mart's traffic, despite being at the center of legal proceedings that could have blocked the retail giant from coming to the borough, he said.

In 2007, the borough filed intent to take a strip of land through the middle of Northern Lights for an access road for Wal-Mart.

That set off a court challenge by shopping center owner PZ Northern Limited Partnership, and Giant Eagle, the center's largest tenant. They argued that the borough improperly was taking the land, harming their businesses.

Economy won the case in Beaver County Common Pleas Court, and a Commonwealth Court decision upheld the ruling in 2009.

In 2009, the state Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal. PZ officials did not return calls for comment.

The borough applied for a highway occupancy permit in November 2011, but after talks with PennDOT stalled, Poling contacted state Sen. Elder Vogel, R-New Sewickley, who set up an emergency meeting with PennDOT engineers.

Economy received the permit in August, borough Secretary Sue Blum said.

The price to build the access road is undetermined because bids are out, but Wal-Mart will reimburse Economy for the work, Poling said.

The 230-acre parcel behind Northern Lights where the store will sit is owned by the estate of Erwin S. Boal, and its sale is under contract with East Coast Development Co., Poling said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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