The Wal-Mart Supercenter at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive is set to open April 29 and will be hiring about 250 workers. Some of the applicants for the full- and part-time positions discussed their prospects.
On the street
Yes … I think they needed one on that end of town.
The woman wouldn’t give her name as she guided her cart through virgin territory — fully stocked shelves, perfectly hung clothes and a floor still free of the marks left by the masses.
“I’m skipping work to do this, and I don’t want my boss to know,” she said with a laugh.
Yeah, she had ditched work to go to Wal-Mart.
It was that type of day in northwest Lawrence on Wednesday as Wal-Mart opened its second store in the city, this one at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.
By 7:15 a.m., the majority of the store’s parking lot was full. By 7:30 a.m., more than 100 people — including a who’s-who of the city’s business community — attended a ribbon cutting that featured the “Star Spangled Banner” sung by the Lawrence Children’s Choir.
By 8 a.m., shoppers with carts in hand literally were standing outside the front door, waiting for their free doughnut and their chance at the city’s newest shopping venue.
“I’m not out here sightseeing. I needed stuff,” said Shelly Hoggatt, who lives in Westwood Hills, an upper-middle class neighborhood adjacent to the store. “I’ll probably use it a lot because I don’t like driving clear across town to the other store.”
Wal-Mart will continue to operate its other store at 33rd and Iowa streets in south Lawrence. The new store, at about 100,000 square feet, is about half the size of the South Iowa store. But the new store — which has about 250 employees — does include a grocery department, a deli, a lawn and garden center, and a drive-through pharmacy.
It also includes a long history.
Wal-Mart first announced plans to build a store at the intersection in August 2002. What followed was a wave of opposition from neighbors who said the store would create more traffic than the area could handle.
Wal-Mart eventually ended up suing the city after city leaders refused to issue a building permit for the store. The lawsuit was dropped after the April 2007 City Commission elections significantly changed the makeup of the commission. Wal-Mart and the commission, just days after the election, agreed to a proposal that would allow Wal-Mart to build the store. But Wal-Mart and developers for the site agreed to limit the size of the store, use a unique exterior design for the building, and limit the overall amount of retail that could be at the corner.
“This project was a labor of love for us, to say the least,” Don Frieson, Wal-Mart’s divisional vice president, told the crowd, drawing a laugh.
On Wednesday, even the developers of the project were able to look back on the winding project and smile just a bit.
“If it was easy, everybody would do it,” said Lawrence businessman Doug Compton, who along with Bill Newsome led the development group that purchased the corner property nearly 10 years ago. “Good things take time, and this is a good thing.”
It also likely is just the start of more development to come. Construction already is under way at the northeast corner of the intersection for a CVS drugstore and a Taco Bell. Compton is a partner in a project to develop the land along Sixth Street in front of Free State High School. The Wal-Mart project also includes several outlying lots that Compton’s group is marketing. He said interest in the property around Wal-Mart has increased significantly in the last 30 days.
“I think people eventually are going to see everything from restaurants to electronics to other types of neighborhood services,” Compton said. “There could be more construction activity in 2009 than there has been in the last two years combined.”