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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Country Mart concerned about Walmart plan

  • Construction of a Walmart-owned Neighborhood Market near the 18th Street and Forum Drive roundabout would threaten the future of the Forum Plaza shopping center, a Country Mart official told the Rolla City Council Monday night.
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  • Construction of a Walmart-owned Neighborhood Market near the 18th Street and Forum Drive roundabout would threaten the future of the Forum Plaza shopping center, a Country Mart official told the Rolla City Council Monday night.
    “We fear Forum Plaza is going to go dark if there’s another supermarket less than a mile down the road,” said Joe Polizzi, vice president and general counsel for Country Mart and Town and Country Supermarket.
    Walmart has asked for rezoning of land near the roundabout; that land is owned by Robert Davis. The Planning and Zoning Commission was scheduled to make a recommendation on the request following a public hearing at a Tuesday evening meeting.
    Polizzi spoke to the council during the time given to public comment. There was no action planned on the Walmart request; that could take place in two weeks.
    “We just wanted to set the table,” Polizzi said, and he noted that he would attend the Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing, and if the council conducts a public hearing in two weeks, as expected, he would be present for that--all of that an indication that the Walmart rezoning request is bound to be a contentious debate for the council to consider.
    At Monday night’s meeting, Polizzi showed the council an artist’s rendering of what the new Country Mart store would look like if it is built on the other side of the shopping center.
    “The intent is to raze the Furniture Express building,” Polizzi said. The new Country Mart would be 45,000-47,000 square feet in size. Polizzi said the current supermarket is about 30,000 square feet.
    With the expansion of the anchoring supermarket, the rest of the Forum Plaza will also receive a facelift.
    “The look and feel of the rest of Forum Plaza will be consistent,” with the work on the new Country Mart building, he said.
    Other supermarkets in the Associated Wholesale Grocers cooperative have made similar expansions, and Polizzi showed the council a nearly two-minute slide show of interiors and exteriors of those renovations.
    Polizzi said the new Country Mart will have all the current brands, but it will also include high-end products and organically grown food, similar to a Trader Joe’s market.
    Stressing that he was not “bashing” other supermarkets in the area, Polizzi said the plans for the Country Mart store would include features not available currently.
    “There’s a place for Walmart,” Polizzi said, and that place is in its current Supercenter location, he added, not less than a mile away from the Forum Plaza.
    Earlier in the meeting, the council voted 12-0 to adopt an ordinance that sets up a procedure for a redevelopment plan and tax abatement (or exemption) plan for the Forum Plaza. Super Market Developers, the name of the group seeking to redevelop the shopping center, will seek public funding for the shopping center improvements.
    Page 2 of 2 - That will be accomplished with a special taxing district at the shopping center as well as exempting the property from real estate taxation for up to 25 years.
    “There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done,” City Administrator John Butz said of the public-private partnership.
    Butz said he is recommending to Super Market Developers that the tax abatement be 100 percent for 10 years and 50 percent for 15 years.

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