It will be the summer of Wal-Mart.
Leaders with the world's largest retailer have been granted a city building permit to begin construction on its $9.5 million store at the northwestern corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.
"We're hoping to start construction very soon," said Angie Stoner, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman. "We're looking at a grand opening of around mid-to-late spring of 2009."
The project also will have road crews busy. City commissioners at their meeting this evening are expected to give necessary approvals to move ahead on installing a traffic signal at the intersection of Sixth Street and Congressional Drive.
The intersection will be the main entrance for the Wal-Mart, and commissioners conditioned the store's approval on a stoplight being installed in the area.
The project also will include a "traffic calming island" that will be built on Congressional Drive south of Sixth Street. The median-like device will be about 30 feet long and feature landscaping. The median will begin just south of where Congressional Drive and Congressional Circle meet.
"What it is supposed to do is tell people that they're moving from a commercial area to a residential area, and they need to slow down," said Chuck Soules, city director of public works.
Ultimately, city leaders are hoping the traffic calming island - which will be similar to one on Folks Road just south of Sixth Street - will reduce the amount of cut-through traffic generated by the commercial development. The main impact of the island is that it will reduce the width of the lanes on Congressional from about 15 feet to 11 feet, Soules said.
"Narrower lanes usually cause people to slow down," Soules said.
The project - the stoplight and traffic calming island - is expected to cost about $330,000.
Wal-Mart and other property owners surrounding the intersection will split the costs, with Wal-Mart and its related development paying the majority share. No city money will be used.
The traffic signal is expected to be completed by the end of the year. A design for the traffic calming island still must be finalized and presented to neighbors. Construction work on the island likely will not begin until summer 2009.
The Wal-Mart store - which will be about half the size of a Supercenter but will include a grocery department - is the largest construction project to pull a permit in the city this year.
Omaha-based Oakview Construction is the general contractor, but Stoner said she expected some local contractors would be hired as project subcontractors.
City commissioners meet at 6:35 tonight at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.