Wal-Mart deal begins stirring

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 21, 2002

An attorney for Wal-Mart wants a new study done on the feasibility of a site near I-35 in Albert Lea in hopes of getting the ball rolling on a long-promised superstore.

The site, in the area directly east of the I-35 on ramp on East Main &045; also known as Old Highway 65 &045; would likely need road work, a new intersection and a bridge over wetlands areas if a Wal-Mart Supercenter is built there, City Manager Paul Sparks said.

After having at least one other study done &045; paid for by the city &045; Wal-Mart will fund the next study itself. Sparks said two other studies have been done, but developer Tom Leland said the new study will be the second.

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Sparks said the latest request is part of &uot;a fact-finding mission&uot; by Wal-Mart’s attorney, who is trying to determine what cost and feasibility estimates for the site are accurate. The company has been working with Leland and his I-35 Development Corporation on the project.

&uot;I think (Wal-Mart has) been told a set of facts, and we have presented them with a different set of facts,&uot; Sparks said.

&uot;Then they can evaluate this site and compare it to other sites that might be available,&uot; Sparks said.

Leland said Wal-Mart has always been interested in the site in question, which is in a triangle bound by I-35 on the East, the East Main on-ramp on the west and north and County Road 46 on the south.

&uot;It’s the most accessible and most visible location out there and Wal-Mart recognizes that,&uot; Leland said. &uot;And there’s more land available for future development&uot; compared to other sites, he said.

The new study, Leland said, is intended to settle once and for all whether the site is right for the company.

&uot;We’re trying to make it proactive by putting it in layman’s terms so they can form, ultimately, their own opinion,&uot; he said.

Because few other property owner would share the cost of adding roads or an intersection, most of the costs of the public improvements would fall to Wal-Mart, Sparks said. The city’s only obligation would be to pay for a sewer extension.

Both Sparks and Leland said despite more than a year of apparent inaction on the planned new store, the company still intends to carry out its plans.

&uot;We’re ready to go, outside of the public improvements, which the study will address,&uot; Leland said.

&uot;They want to build,&uot; Sparks said. &uot;It’s just a question of where.&uot;

Leland said the study should take around six weeks to complete.

The city council will discuss the proposed study at its meeting Monday.