Mayor comments on Walmart's decision to scrap Belleville supercenter
A Walmart Supercenter will not be built as planned in west Belleville, a Walmart spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Walmart is “no longer moving forward with the project,” said Walmart spokeswoman Anne Hatfield.
On Monday night, Mayor Mark Eckert told the City Council that he had information that Walmart had put a hold on work on the Belleville store planned for the intersection of South 74th Street and Illinois 15, but he had not received information on whether Walmart had permanently shelved the project.
Hatfield said Walmart is concentrating on investing in current stores and building fewer stores nationally.
“So many things have changed since we first started looking at building a store there several years ago,” Hatfield said. “And now what we’re doing and what our focus is, is investing in our existing stores, investing in new technology and investing in our associates, and investing in the convenience that customers want today.
“We are building fewer stores, but we are improving the existing stores that we have.”
Hatfield said one of the additions is the online grocery shopping service in which customers place their orders on the internet and then pick up the groceries at a designated time at the store they choose. The service is free, and the groceries are the same price as if the customer shopped inside the store.
“It is life changing,” is how Hatfield described this service.
Eckert said that Walmart had spent “a lot of money” in planning the west Belleville store but that the company had not sought tax incentives for the new store.
When Walmart’s plans were released earlier this year, Eckert said he received calls from residents who opposed the project and others who were excited to get the new store.
The possibility of a “new sales tax opportunity is always good,” was one of his thoughts about the proposed store.
Eckert also thought it would have been unique to have two Walmart Supercenters located in a city the size of Belleville, but he still expects to see other commercial developments along the Illinois 15 corridor that now features car dealers, Target, Home Depot and a slew of restaurants.
“Walmart was one piece of many things on the Route 15 corridor,” Eckert said.
“I don’t think that this stops by any means future strong development in the next year or two. It does, I’m sure, have some bearing, but that will just have to be seen. I’m still very optimistic.”
The 30,000-square-foot Hofbräuhaus German restaurant and brewery has said it will open in late January across from the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. Also, Eckert said the Jack Flash convenience store chain has filed plans with the city to build a store in front of the Hofbräuhaus and a plan to build a subdivision of upscale homes and professional office buildings near Belleville West High School is still proceeding.
Roger Wigginton, who is one of the city’s aldermen on the west side, said Walmart’s decision is “unfortunate,” but he said it was made because Walmart is restructuring its business model and not building as many stores as it has in previous years.
Internet shopping is cutting into sales of brick and mortar stores, and Walmart has to keep up with what customers want, said Wigginton, who has been in the retail sales business for 48 years and owns a clothing store on West Main Street. Wigginton said online retailer Amazon is a formidable competitor even for a mega company like Walmart.
Wigginton, like the mayor, is still bullish on the Illinois 15 corridor despite the loss of a Walmart Supercenter.
“We’re talking to people all the time on Route 15,” Wigginton said. “Route 15 is going to develop. We just have to be patient.”