Wal-Mart plans worry McCandless center's tenants

| Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:15 p.m.

Longtime tenants in a McCandless shopping center said they had no idea Wal-Mart was planning to demolish their buildings to build a supercenter.

“We're set here. We're established. We're one of the top beer stores in the North Hills,” said Dave Vivio of Brew'ry Outlet North, which is owned by his wife, Tamara Weightman. The store celebrated its 20th anniversary in the Blazier Drive shopping center on Tuesday.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. wants to build a 150,000-square-foot supercenter with a grocery store, auto center and drive-through pharmacy in the shopping center.

On Tuesday, the McCandless Planning Commission voted 6-0, with Dr. James Childress absent, to recommend that the council approve land development and site consolidation plans for Wal-Mart after traffic, engineering, legal and architectural representatives from various firms presented the retailer's plans.

The plans will go before McCandless Council's zoning committee on July 21. The full council could vote on July 28.

Wal-Mart wants to develop the project on 23 acres in the shopping center on Blazier Drive, between Blazier's intersections with Ingomar Road and McKnight Road.

“We are always looking for new locations where we think we can make shopping more convenient for our customers,” Wal-Mart spokesman Bill Wertz said Wednesday of the store that would create about 300 jobs, mostly full time.

Wal-Mart hasn't decided whether the McCandless store would operate 24 hours, seven days a week, he said, and if the project is approved, construction would take about a year.

The site is occupied by a vacant building, at 551 Blazier, that used to contain a Bally Total Fitness and Sun Books, and a building, at 555 Blazier Drive, that now contains Trader Horn and Brew'ry Outlet.

Trader Horn has been in the shopping center since 1992 and that location has the best sales volume of its eight stores, said Dave Smith, advertising manager.

The store sells home repair supplies, specialty foods, pet products and housewares.

“We have our own niche, and we've been at it since 1958,” said Smith, who said he didn't know the plans for the Blazier Drive store if Wal-Mart's plans are approved.

A 35-year-old movie theater operates in the shopping center, but Plano, Texas-based Cinemark Holdings Inc. has that property, including 33.85 acres, listed for sale for $5 million. The theater site is not part of Wal-Mart's plans, Adam Benosky, a civil engineer with Philadelphia-based Bohler Engineering, said Tuesday.

Wal-Mart has a sales agreement with WesBanco Inc. to buy 551 and 555 Blazier, and it will demolish the buildings if the town approves its project, Benosky said. The retailer also has sales agreements with Blazier McKnight Associates, which owns two mostly vacant parcels on the site, to buy one of its parcels and part of the other one.

Cinemark and WesBanco couldn't be reached for comment.

Several commissioners expressed concern about traffic.

“I'm hopeful with the modifications they'll make now and ones that the state and town are working on, we'll be in pretty good shape,” Dick Schnupp, vice chairman of the commission, said Wednesday.

“Am I concerned? Yes. But again, I've learned that experts do a pretty good job and are be able to make traffic light adjustments as needed,”

Wal-Mart plans about $2.5 million in off-site road improvements, including extending the northbound left turn lane on McKnight Road into Pine Creek Road and replacing the signal at McKnight and Blazier, said Casey Moore, a traffic engineer with McMahon Associates.

The town will insist that a right turn lane onto Blazier from Ingomar be added, said Bruce Betty, McCandless' land-use administrator.

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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