The former Walmart store on Carlyle Plaza Drive has sat vacant since 2008 when Walmart relocated to the Green Mount Crossing shopping center but a Miami developer has plans to resurrect the sprawling space into an indoor self-storage business.
David Bernstein, president of Larkspur Properties, wants to renovate the old Walmart and install 650 to 700 storage units of varying sizes inside the building.
Indoor, climate-controlled self-storage businesses have been a booming across the country, Bernstein said. Customers can store their things in a building with air conditioning and heat in order to avoid extreme temperatures.
And to kick in another feature, he wants to build a drive-thru lane that would allow customers to drive into the building and unload their goods so they won’t have to do that in bad weather.
Bernstein said self-storage businesses have been popular nationwide for several years.
“It’s amazing how many people have stuff,” Bernstein said. “Everybody’s got stuff.”
Bernstein bought the Walmart building for $1.2 million. He declined to say how much he plans to spend on the renovation, which he hopes have finished by the end of the year.
Although the “placeholder” name for the business is “Belleville Self Storage” on an artist’s rendering, Bernstein said he has not yet formally named the business. Also, he has not set prices he will charge and the proposal still needs to be approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals and the City Council.
Vacant ‘big box’ stores
As “big box” stores are closing across the country and the metro-east as shoppers buy more goods online, developers have been looking for ways to use the vacant buildings.
“It seems like it’s the right strategy for this size box at this location in this market,” Bernstein said of his plan for the old Walmart off Carlyle Avenue.
Just as Bernstein is pulling together his plan to fill the old Walmart store, the Schnucks grocery store next door at 110 Carlyle Plaza Drive will be closed soon since Schnucks has taken over the former Shop ’n Save at 800 Carlyle Ave. and is consolidating its east Belleville operations in that store.
Scores of Kmart stores have closed across the region and country, including one on Belleville’s west side at 7230 Westfield Plaza. When asked if he wanted to open a self-storage business in the old Kmart building, Bernstein smiled and said he’d have to wait to see how the one on the east side performs.
Belleville City Council member Phil Elmore, whose Ward 7 includes the Carlyle Plaza Drive building, said he looks forward to Bernstein’s plan for the old Walmart because since he joined the council in 2009, residents have wanted a business to take over the Walmart site.
Bernstein will have to pay property taxes on the Walmart building but Elmore said ideally another retail business that generated sales tax revenue would have moved into the building.
But Elmore noted, “It also has been proven over 10 years of time that that is unrealistic with the way big box stores are going in this country.”