Wal-Mart Stores will place a 160,000-square-foot superstore in Hewitt’s Commerce Park at Interstate 35 and Sun Valley Boulevard, giving residents of communities near Hewitt on the interstate a shopping option, possibly creating nearly 300 jobs and potentially doubling Hewitt’s annual sales tax revenue.
The retail giant reportedly will break ground on a Walmart store this summer and could open for business by July 2015, according to sources involved in the project.
Negotiations to place a Walmart in the mixed-use development site at Hewitt’s southern end reportedly have gone on nearly two years and heated up in October.
“We’re excited, and it’s good to finally be able to talk about it,” Hewitt City Manager Adam Miles said Tuesday, confirming the chain will build a store on 21 acres to sell both groceries and general merchandise while operating a fuel island.
It also will make sites available to other retailers wanting to locate nearby.
A Walmart supercenter opened in 2004 at 600 Hewitt Drive, helping to spur development along the busy thoroughfare that links West Waco, Hewitt and Woodway.
“But that store actually is in Waco,” Miles said. “Nothing against our neighbors, but hopefully Hewitt residents will enjoy spending money in our town.”
Miles said he thinks the new Walmart also will attract shoppers from Robinson and Bruceville- Eddy, as well as Baylor University students “wanting to take a seven-minute drive to Hewitt.”
He said the store’s location on I-35, near the turnaround at Sun Valley Boulevard that allows interstate motorists to change directions, should prove appealing.
The city of Hewitt had Wal-Mart Stores in mind when it recently secured from the Texas Department of Transportation more control over approving access plans and driveway construction for developments planned along Sun Valley Boulevard, Hewitt Drive and Spring Valley Road.
Because the streets are all classified as state highways, the Texas Department of Transportation typically would review and approve those access plans. But that could take time the city may not have when negotiating with a prospect. With that in mind, Hewitt City Council called a special meeting to approve taking on access plan management.
The city reportedly began addressing the matter because the owners of Commerce Park were angling to attract a major retailer.
Waco real estate agent Chris Gutierrez, who helped market the park to potential developers, said Tuesday the deal with Wal-Mart Stores would not have been clinched without cooperation from RDO Equipment, 215 Enterprise Blvd., which agreed to sell property to Wal-Mart to give it parking-lot access from Sun Valley Boulevard.
Miles said he and Gutierrez flew to RDO headquarters in Fargo, N.D., to secure that commitment.
Hewitt’s Walmart store will face I-35 and have one entrance off Sun Valley Boulevard and two off Alliance Parkway.
Miles said the city has continued to work with TxDOT as it has negotiated with Wal-Mart, discussing traffic counts and steps needed to accommodate increased demand
Meanwhile, Kimley-Horn, a national land-use and design consulting firm, prepared a traffic analysis for Wal-Mart that TxDOT has examined.
“Basically, they said that all the traffic today added to the traffic created by Walmart and development associated with it will generate half the capacity of Sun Valley Boulevard,” Miles said. “The situation will have to be reviewed regularly, as things grow and develop, and 15 to 20 years down the road it probably will look like New Road at Franklin Avenue in Waco.” That intersection is home to a Lowe’s Home Improvement store, a Walmart supercenter and Academy Sports & Outdoors.
Kris Collins, senior vice president for economic development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, said the new Walmart store “is a great addition to the Hewitt community, something that will add to their tax base, both personal and real, and will be a great sales-tax generator.”
She said the store likely will attract customers from Robinson and Lorena “and pick up interstate traffic” not bound for the Walmart superstore in Bellmead.
Gutierrez said the sale of 21 acres to Wal-Mart Stores leaves about 60 acres available in Commerce Park, where other users include FedEx, Averitt Express and Brazos Mobile Imaging. He said he thinks news of the retailer’s commitment to the site will create other prospects.
“We’re heading to the International Council of Shopping Centers’ ReCon event in Las Vegas, where 90 percent of the world’s retail deals get done every year, and the new Walmart has prompted some meetings with people we might not otherwise have gotten to see,” he said.
Dallas-based Leon Capital Group, which plans developments where it has demolished the old Sul Ross Elementary School at South Seventh Street and Interstate 35 and the former University High campus at Bagby Avenue and South Valley Mills Drive, bought a parcel next to the proposed Walmart site.
“They know Walmart usually attracts other retailers, and they want to get in on it,” said Gutierrez, who is working with the development firm.
The Hewitt Walmart will join others in the Greater Waco area in Bellmead, on Hewitt Drive and at Franklin Avenue and New Road.