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Rumors turn to facts: Wal-Mart grocery stores coming to Lanier Plaza, Lanier Commons

POSTED: July 31, 2014 9:06 p.m.

Demolition crews knock down the old Lanier Plaza on Thompson Bridge Road to make way for a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market to be built on the site.

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After months of rumor and speculation, Wal-Mart announced Thursday it will be moving into the Lanier Plaza and Lanier Commons shopping centers in Gainesville.

Wal-Mart plans to open its Neighborhood Market grocery stores, a smaller version of the megabox retailer, at the two locations in early 2015.

“Our Neighborhood Market stores give our customers quick and easy access to a wide variety of affordable products — fresh produce, a full grocery department with a bakery and deli, a drive-thru pharmacy with our popular $4 generic prescriptions, health and beauty supplies, select household items, plus a gas station,” Glen Wilkins, Wal-Mart director of public affairs and government relations, said in a statement.

Plans to build a new 42,000-square-foot grocery store and an accompanying 12-pump fueling station at Lanier Plaza, along Thompson Bridge Road, proved controversial in recent months.

Residents of neighborhoods near the shopping center turned out at Gainesville City Council meetings to voice their opposition to the redevelopment.

They even held protests and worked with business owners there to fight the project.

Quality of life issues, such as traffic and environmental impacts, the eviction of small businesses in the shopping center and the prospect of declining property values, were among the concerns raised.

Ultimately, council approved a rezoning needed for the redevelopment to proceed.

But just what company would operate the grocery store remained a source of speculation.

Representatives from Polestar, a Tennessee-based developer, stayed mum on the question throughout the fight.

They said they could not divulge the tenant while negotiations were ongoing and until the purchase of the shopping center properties was complete. 

But it was something of an open secret that Wal-Mart was the answer.

Even Councilwoman Ruth Bruner acknowledged this during one public hearing on the redevelopment.

And some residents made no effort to hide their objection to the rumored prospect that Wal-Mart would be expanding its base in Gainesville.

Now public knowledge, some residents are left wondering why the announcement wasn’t made sooner.

“Why would they wait so long to make it official?” said resident Scott Fugate, who lives in a subdivision near Lanier Plaza. “Do they have something to hide? Honest businesses that care about the community don’t need to hide.”

Meanwhile, the controversy surrounding the redevelopment of Lanier Plaza was not repeated when similar plans surfaced to renovate Lanier Commons at the intersection of Browns Bridge and McEver roads.

Demolition of a portion of the shopping center that once housed a Food Lion made way for another 42,000-square-foot grocery store and pharmacy, plus a 12-pump fueling station.

Because only part of the shopping center is being redeveloped, the Family Dollar, a Mexican restaurant and a deli will remain in business.

An Asian restaurant, Farmers Insurance office and Freedom Tax Service were forced to vacate.

These two projects mark Polestar’s first foray into business in Gainesville.

“On behalf of the city, I would like to welcome these stores to our community,” Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said in a statement. “... These stores on Thompson Bridge Road and Browns Bridge Road will provide almost 200 additional jobs for our community, generate additional tax revenue and stimulate new investment in the surrounding area.”


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