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Wal-Mart chooses Wilkins Twp. over Penn Hills for new location

| Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 3:27 p.m.

There's not going to be a Wal-Mart in Penn Hills anytime soon.

Penn Hills Planning Director Howard Davidson said on Nov. 15 that his office had received a call from officials at the multinational retailer notifying him that they were discontinuing the project, which has been in the works for several years and has included the acquisition of a sliver of property in Plum Borough for the proposed retail center.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. instead wants to build a 124,715-square-foot supercenter, which would include a grocery store, in the Penn Center East development off William Penn Highway in Wilkins Township, according to an application it submitted to the state Department of Transportation regarding a traffic-impact study.

Wilkins Township Manager Rebecca Bradley said township officials have met with project representatives with regard to property development and traffic, and have held preliminary meetings with PennDOT about a traffic-impact study.

Bradley and project representative Rick Celender, of CEC Inc., said Walmart officials are interested in the current Sears building at 3470 William Penn Highway.

The parcel is owned by PCELL, L.P., and LG Realty Advisors lease and manage the property. Penn Center East General Manager Barry Layton confirmed that Walmart has entered into a lease for the property.

“We've met with Celender to go over a very preliminary plan,” Bradley said, “and Wal-Mart is tentatively planning to submit an application to the planning commission in December.”

Davidson said that after the project spent such a long time in the planning stages, he was not completely surprised that Wal-Mart ultimately went a different way.

“It's difficult to get Wal-Mart to give details on their reasoning, but the slow and expensive process of obtaining a highway occupancy permit from PennDOT had to play a significant role,” he said.

With residents speaking out both for and against the project —which has gone through at least three potential locations, beginning with the old East Hills Shopping Center off of Robinson Boulevard — Davidson said he expects reaction to be mixed.

“Some will be pleased, while others will be disappointed,” he said.

William Wertz, Wal-Mart's East community and media relations director, said the company re-evaluates its projects and priorities on a continuing basis, “to make sure we're allocating our capital resources most effectively.”

Wertz said Wal-Mart did not have any official announcement to make regarding a location in Wilkins.

See the Nov. 22 edition of the Penn Hills Progress for more information.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com. Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at tparrish@tribweb.com.

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