Tonawanda News

July 7, 2011

Walmart construction under way

By Neale Gulley
The Tonawanda News

— — Walmart will break ground Monday on a long-awaited Supercenter in North Tonawanda on Monday, following years of divisiveness surrounding the project.

A ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. July 11, at the former Melody Fair grounds at the corner of Erie Avenue and Niagara Falls Boulevard, to officially recognize the start of construction, which began this week.

“They got the building permit on Wednesday,” North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt said.  “It totals about $100,000 in permits so far we’ve taken in.”

A contractor began work Thursday, he said, promoting city officials to organize the groundbreaking Monday.

“They were really chomping at the bit,” Ortt, who said the project is a positive sign of economic growth in the Lumber City, said, adding no one person or administration can take full credit for the project.

At least five separate lawsuits were filed to block the project since the retailer was invited to build here by former Mayor Larry Soos nearly six years ago.

“It’s been a long journey to get here,” Ortt said.

“This project will provide hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to the City of North Tonawanda, hundreds of new jobs, and not one dollar of public money is being spent on the construction of this store,” Ortt said in a press release.

The City of North Tonawanda has been sued regularly for years, by some residents and business owners opposed to the store they said would, among other things, put local stores out of business.

“I am thrilled to see that North Tonawanda's wait is finally over,” said City Attorney Shawn Nickerson, who successfully defended the city against the suits.

The new Walmart will include more than 30 aisles of general merchandise as well as a full-service grocery department with a bakery, deli, and produce department. Walmart claims that more than 300 jobs will be created, in addition to thousands of dollars in annual tax revenue viewed by city officials as a much needed boon.

Local residents and nearby businesses are invited to attend the groundbreaking.

Jason Klipa, Walmart director of public affairs and government relations, said: “We look forward to a new relationship with the City and its residents and we know that we will be a great neighbor.”