December 1, 2008

Wal-Mart Remodeling Moves Forward

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Upon garnering preliminary approval from the City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board on Nov. 18, Wal-Mart’s plans to expand are moving closer to becoming a reality. Not only will also Wal-Mart be increasing in size, but will feature an improved exterior with a new façade and vestibules.
According to the modified site plan resolution passed by the board, Wal-Mart’s construction will include two new front vestibules, a drive through pharmacy on the north side, additional parking and a public park in the area between Wal-Mart and neighboring Bed Bath and Beyond. The front of the Super-Center will also receive a face-lift. It is one of the first Wal-Marts in country to feature the corporation’s new look.
“The representatives from Wal-Mart explained this was a prototype for a general remodeling of stores across the country,” said John Schroeder ’74, chair of the Planning Board and The Sun’s production manager. “Wal-Mart has decided to use more earth tones in its exterior and decrease its apparent size so it’s more a storefront than an enormous building.”
With such improvements as stone accents, window awnings and a changed logo featuring a stylized flower instead of a star, Wal-Mart hopes to make its store fronts cater to pedestrians across America.
“It’s going to be nice and will definitely attract more shoppers,” an assistant manager of Ithaca’s Wal-Mart said. “However, I don’t know the time line of the plan and when construction will begin.”
While these aesthetic changes may be pleasing to the eye, for many Wal-Mart shoppers finding the “unbeatable prices” advertised by the company remains a priority. As stated on the company’s website, Wal-Mart’s purpose is “to save people money so they can live better.”
“I shop here because of the prices,” said Shawna Hazeldy, Ithaca resident and Wal-Mart shopper. “I come here for most of my necessities.”
Wal-Mart’s beautification is not just limited to its front. The renovation includes trees and fencing along back of the store. This landscaping, however, is not to attract shoppers: it is a response to the city’s plan to make the land behind Wal-Mart into an urban neighborhood with affordable and environmentally friendly housing.
“What would be unique about this neighborhood is its walking distance to such big-box stores as Wal-Mart and Wegmans,” Schroeder said. “The community would nevertheless have a sense of seclusion, separate from the rest of the commercial area.”
Since the Planning Board approved a farther-reaching plan in 2002, its decision to approve the plans was not a hard one to make. While Wal-Mart must meet some final conditions before it can begin constructing its 40,000 square-foot additions, Wal-Mart representatives did not object to the requirements stipulated by the Planning Board.
The resolution for final site plan approval is set to come before the Planning Board on Dec. 16. The store will remain open during construction.