BY JOE OLENICK
Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — Construction will begin next week on the Town of Lockport's long-awaited and much-delayed Walmart Supercenter.
That's according to the DiMarco Group, the general contractor of the project. Representatives of the Rochester-based firm met Friday with various community and business leaders for an informational meeting concerning upcoming construction of the supercenter. The meeting was hosted by the Lockport Business Association.
The work will begin with the removal of a giant concrete pad and the erection of a sound barrier. Construction will continue through the winter and is expected to be complete by the end of August, 2014.
Rick Diamond, project executive for DiMarco, said he doesn't believe Transit Road businesses will see a huge impact because of the construction. There will be some hiccups – as some access points will be blocked off at points – but those affected will be notified well in advance.
Construction will also include doing some work on the parcels around the Walmart site, such as Bon Ton and the businesses in front, such as Denny's or Wendy's.
"Those are minor improvements," Diamond said. "There's some work we have to do out there."
The construction entrance will be on Shimer Road. When complete, Walmart will have two entrances, Shimer and the main one on South Transit Road.
A Walmart Supercenter been a long time coming for the Town of Lockport. The project was first proposed in the late 1990s.
Walmart first received planning board approval in 2007 and bought the former Lockport Mall site on South Transit Road in December 2010. The retailer bought the South Transit property for $3.95 million from General Growth Properties of Chicago.
Walmart has been held up by a number of legal challenges, the last one was turned away in October, 2012. And then those infamous seagulls got involved, nesting on the site from March until August for the last two years, causing another delay. Because the seagulls are federally protected, Walmart couldn't move forward until they were safely removed from the site or discouraged from nesting there.
After two summers of dealing with birds, Walmart took action this spring. Buffalo Exterminating was called out to the mall site in March, to get rid of nesting materials and encourage the gulls to leave. The efforts were "effective," Walmart officials said last month.
The Walmart Supercenter is a major component of the town's Transit North Historic Canalway Corridor. Transit North is an eight-mile stretch of retail shopping from Main Street in the City of Lockport to Tonawanda Creek Road in Pendleton. The corridor's goal is to turn South Transit into a major retail center, anchored by Walmart, drawing locals who currently shop elsewhere, as well as tourists.
Lockport’s 185,209 square-foot supercenter will replace the current Walmart, located less than half a mile south of the mall site on South Transit Road. There are about 200 people working at the existing store.
Town officials have said there are parties interested in occupying the old Walmart site. At least one department store has expressed interest.Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.