GLEN CARBON — It may have taken six or more years, but the new Sam's Club and expanded Walmart SuperCenter are expected to open in August.
Plans were in the works as early as 2007 for the Glen Carbon Walmart to expand into a SuperCenter, an 80,000-square-foot expansion that would have created a grocery section and remodeled the garden center and automotive departments.
At the time, the tenants of the old Cottonwood Mall next door to Walmart were moved to new locations in preparation for the expansion.
But the project met with strong resistance from residents, and a lawsuit was filed to stop the project. Walmart canceled the expansion before the suit came to court, and it eventually was dropped.
Instead, Walmart did a $1 million interior renovation that added some grocery features, but did not create a SuperCenter. By then, Cottonwood Cinema was closed and the mall was demolished, leaving green space between Walmart and a nearby strip of retailers, including OfficeMax, PetSmart and Goodwill.
In 2010, Walmart returned to the Glen Carbon village board for building permits to proceed with the expansion after all. The permits were approved with little to no resistance from the public, according to Mayor Rob Jackstadt.
The expansion will add 55,000 square feet to Walmart, turning it into a SuperCenter with grocery store, and will renovate the parking and access roadways as well to unsnarl what is often a traffic jam in Cottonwood Plaza.
The existing store is about 129,000 square feet, and the new store, which will have two new entrances and a remodeled design, will total 184,000 square feet. The cost of construction is estimated at $5.57 million.
Jackstadt said Walmart asked for nothing in the way of incentives for the expansion. "They are investing all the money to build this expansion and will not receive a rebate of sales taxes or anything," Jackstadt said.
Meanwhile, Walmart had acquired the former Do-It Center across the street, as well as Four Flags Motors, in order to build a Sam's Club. But that project was mired down in mine subsidence and environmental contamination cleanups -- $4.5 million was estimated for the mines alone.
For that project, Walmart requested a business district that added 1 percent onto the sales taxes for that building alone. That 1 percent, and half of the village's sales-tax bill from Sam's Club, will be rebated to Walmart until $6.7 million in environmental and mine remediation costs are made up.
"This project will ... clean up an environmentally contaminated site and a major eyesore," Jackstadt said.
Now dirt is moving and walls are rising at Sam's Club and Walmart, across the street from each other.
Walmart spokesman Daniel Morales said the 136,000-square-foot Sam's Club is scheduled to open with 175 permanent employees. It will include a gas station and pharmacy, and is being constructed with energy-efficient technology, he said. The expanded Walmart will add another 80 jobs, he said.
"It demonstrates that businesses realize the Glen Carbon-Edwardsville area is the place to invest," Jackstadt said. "We have good demographics, a good location in Madison County and it demonstrates that they're willing to invest in our area."
Walmart is in Cottonwood Plaza, which was built in a tax increment financing district dating back to 1997. That TIF district is set to expire in 2018.
However, the village is on track to pay off its TIF-related debt in 2016, Jackstadt said, and then would be able to close the TIF district by April 30, 2017.
At that time, property taxes for Cottonwood Plaza and Walmart will revert to local taxing bodies. Based on the most recent tax year, the school district alone would bring in an additional $480,000 a year once the TIF district expires.
Jackstadt said he was encouraged to see redevelopment within the TIF district near the end of its term, rather than near the beginning. "By them investing in remodeling and expanding, there's a good argument that they're increasing the (property values)," he said. "Any time you get a property owner that says 'instead of letting my property deteriorate, I want to fix it up,' that's a positive."
TIF districts must be blighted in some way, by environment or by the economy, in order to be extended or created. There has been no discussion or application to renew the TIF district when it expires, Jackstadt said.
"I don't think it would qualify for a TIF now, and I don't think there would be support for that," he said.
Sam's Club is across the street and outside the TIF district. That means the property taxes from the new Sam's Club will immediately go to taxing bodies, which is estimated to benefit Edwardsville District 7 by $162,500 a year.
As for sales taxes, after the incentives are given back to Sam's Club, the village estimates it will receive an additional $375,000 a year. When the incentive package expires and the additional 1-percent ends, that amount is estimated to go up to $750,000 a year, a big step up for a village that averages about $2 million a year in sales taxes, Jackstadt said.
"Obviously, we're not getting any sales taxes off that property right now," he said.
Does that mean that Glen Carbon will suddenly be rolling in cash? Not necessarily, Jackstadt said. Some of those sales taxes might be simply people choosing to shop at Sam's Club instead of Best Buy or Lowe's, which are also in Glen Carbon.
On the other hand, he said, it might be people choosing to shop in Glen Carbon rather than driving to O'Fallon or elsewhere, which brings in new dollars.
Not everyone is pleased with the projects. There have been frequent protests in front of the Sam's Club construction site from local unions, sometimes with a giant inflatable rat beside a banner urging shoppers not to patronize Walmart or Sam's Club.
Jackstadt said although one of the unions working the site is from Missouri, as far as he knows all the construction crews are union workers and the developer is required to pay prevailing wages.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at email@example.com or 239-2501.