Although city officials say it’s far from a done deal, South Pasadena Mayor Dan Calabria sent an e-mail telling constituents he met with a “representative of the development group that works for Wal-Mart” who told him the group was moving forward with plans to remodel the vacant Publix location into a Wal-Mart.
In 2008, Publix vacated the shopping plaza and moved to the empty Albertsons store at the opposing corner of Gulfport Boulevard and Pasadena. Since then, the cornerstone storefront in the Pasadena Shopping Center has remained vacant. The Hallmark store also closed, although a CVS, Regions and smattering of other shops remain open.
“I consider this only the first step in the revitalization of the city for both businesses and residents. I’m confident as we make progress with upgrading and improving Pasadena Avenue, more major businesses will be looking at us as a candidate for their attention and possible location,” Mayor Calabria said, noting that Wal-Mart’s presence in South Pasadena marked “the first new, major national brand to become part of South Pasadena in too many years.”
Wal-Mart Grocery Store, known as the Neighborhood Market, applied for a site plan three months ago, according to Neil Schwartz, South Pasadena’s Community Development Director. The Neighborhood Markets focus on selling groceries rather than a full complement of items sold in larger Wal-Marts.
The plan did not include major exterior renovations but Wal-Mart, if it did pursue the deal, would have to make extensive renovations inside the old grocery store, Mr. Schwartz said.
The city approved the site plan but has nothing else on record from from Wal-Mart.
“The next step is going to be pulling permits. I’ve been in touch with the development company since January 2011, and we’ve come a long way to get here. It’s taken too long, [but] I’m assuming the work permits will be in place in three or four weeks,” Mayor Dan Calabria said. “I don’t want to imply that there’s an opening date, but I’m going to work closely with them on a grand opening event.”
“As far as I was concerned, it was just a fact finding mission. You are looking at millions and millions of dollars for Wal-Mart to come in,” Mr. Schwartz said. “We have a 40,000 square foot shopping center that’s been sitting out there vacant... we have what I call ‘tire kickers’.”
He could not say that Wal-Mart had plans to move forward with the old Publix but cautioned that he did not mean to contradict the mayor.
Wal-Mart looked at the former Winn-Dixie in Gulfport (now a Save-a-Lot) but never submitted a site plan.
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.