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Walmart revives Dardenne Prairie neighborhood market concept

They’re back …

Walmart Stores Inc. submitted an application to Dardenne Prairie seeking zoning changes that would allow it to build a new grocery store after pulling back on plans for a similar store last July. The new plans call for building a Walmart Neighborhood Market grocery at the northwest corner of Bryan and Feise roads.

Public hearings are planned on March 8 before the city’s planning and zoning commission and on March 15 before the city’s Board of Aldermen. The hearings will be held at 7 p.m. at city hall, 2032 Hanley Road. The board could decide on the application at that March 15 meeting.

The application seeks a change from the present C-2 commercial zoning to C-2 planned unit development with conditional uses. The proposed development involves 6.25 acres of a 15.79-acre property north of Feise Road near its intersection with Bryan Road.

The 15.79 acres is divided into five parcels and is part of 86.5 acres, known as the Bopp tract, owned by Cora Bopp Family Limited Partnership. Walmart is expected to buy two of the parcels with city approvals forthcoming.

The new applications surprised Mayor David Zucker, who was informed by Walmart on July 19, 2016 that it decided not to proceed with plans to build a 46,000-square-foot grocery store and gas station there.

“I think they reduced the footprint of their store by 4,000 to 5,000 square feet,” said Mayor David Zucker on Feb 16. “What’s changed is the footprint of the market itself. They have fewer parking spaces and more landscaping.”

Zucker said the exterior appearance of the store will be the same as was worked out with city officials for the previous store proposal. City officials earlier objected to the standard “industrial box” look of store when it was proposed and insisted on an upgraded design.

The market is expected to offer standard food and services and possibly online ordering that allows curbside pickup of groceries. Zucker said that will depend on what Walmart representatives say at the public hearings.

Zucker was baffled by Walmart’s decision last summer. The only explanation from them was that on reflection it was too expensive,” Zucker said in an interview in July. Zucker said based on the city’s own economic market assessment some months ago, there was enough business within a five-mile radius of the site to support three full-sized grocery stores.

More recently, Zucker said he discussed Walmart’s return at a local chamber of commerce meeting. “It’s not that they say they were wrong in that decision, but they might have been a little short of being right,” he said.

Walmart’s earlier pullout came after months of review and discussion of development of the property and the market. Walmart announced last March plans for the grocery store and gas station. The store is smaller than Walmart Supercenters and competing supermarkets. The Neighborhood Market would be the third recently opened in St. Charles County. The new store also will provide the city more sales tax revenue – as much as $300,000 annually, according to a city consultant.

The news also came on the eve of final decision on a conditional-use permit and site plan for the development that were expected to go before the city’s board of aldermen. The city’s planning and zoning commission recommended approval of the permit and site plan. Aldermen already approved a planned unit development [PUD] request on the tract.

Meanwhile, Zucker said also that he expects a new development plan for the Bopp property.

That area plan will more likely than not feature less commercial and more residential,” Zucker said. “I haven’t seen it and don’t know when I will see it but I think they recognize that the original concept with over 770,000 square feet [of commercial development] – that’s not happening.”

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