Walmart took another big step Tuesday night toward opening a new store in Andover.
The Andover City Council unanimously approved the final plat for Walmart’s redevelopment of the former Pov’s Sports Bar site at 1851 Bunker Lake Blvd. N.W. Councilmember Julie Trude was absent due to illness.
The council also approved vacation of old roadway, drainage, utility and trail easements along Bunker Lake Boulevard and Jay Street. There will a new trail constructed on the west side of Jay Street in the new easement, but there will still be no trail on the north side of Bunker Lake Boulevard in this area.
There is still some work to take place. Anoka County Engineer Doug Fischer said the county highway department still has a few questions to be answered by MFRA, which is the Plymouth-based consultant Walmart hired to lead the project design.
Andover Community Development Director David Carlberg said a more specific site plan must still be approved.
Erik Miller, vice president/principal of MFRA, said Walmart is tentatively planning to break ground in April. The store could be open late this year or in early 2014.
The land sale between former Pov’s Sports Bar owner Brad Povlitzki and Walmart has not yet closed, but City Administrator Jim Dickinson expects this will happen sometime in March.
Miller said it will occur before groundbreaking.
Andover resident Audra Carlson, who was at the Feb. 5 council meeting for another agenda item, said she is looking forward to this Walmart opening. She currently shops at the Walmart and Cub Foods in Coon Rapids and would prefer to reduce the number of stops.
“It’ll be my one-stop shopping for getting groceries and buying goods,” Carlson said of the new Andover Walmart.
The new store will be approximately 150,000 square feet and include a deli, meat market, bakery, frozen foods area and other items one could find at most grocery stores. Patrons could enter the doors on the west side of the building to quickly get to the groceries.
The east entrance would be for the general retail area and there will be a food vendor there, according to Miller.
There will be no liquor store. The council unanimously denied Walmart’s request last October, citing that it did not consider this an “exclusive” liquor store as defined by city code.
The liquor store would have had a separate outside entrance and a second entrance through the grocery vestibule of the store. Walmart felt this met the definition of exclusive.
The council allowed seasonal garden sales in a section of the parking lot from March 15 through July 15 every year.
The store cannot be open for 24 hours a day, except during the holiday season between Nov. 15 and Jan. 1. All establishments in the general business and industrial zoning districts fall under this city rule. Businesses in the shopping center and neighborhood business districts can be open 24 hours throughout the year.
The Andover Planning and Zoning Commission has been reviewing the city code and hours of operation in the different business districts was one topic that came up, so Councilmember Sheri Bukkila said this was not a Walmart-driven discussion.
She said Walmart did submit a letter supporting 24/7 hours of operation throughout the year because it would have benefited.
As far as the vote on the final plat Tuesday night, Bukkila said it was “anti-climatic.”
Bukkila said the council did not have as much control as some residents assumed during the city review process, which began when the McCombs Frank Roos Associates, Inc. consulting firm submitted an application on behalf of Walmart on March 20, 2012.
One very key factor was the site was zoned general business when it was Pov’s Sports Bar and will continue to be zoned general business when it is Walmart, so rezoning was never necessary.
The plat did not change from the preliminary plat to the final plat. The site is 26.99 acres and will be split into a 19.69-acre lot that Walmart will own and a 6.38-acre lot that Povlitzki will retain for future development.
The store is slated to have 670 parking spaces, which is 40 more than needed to meet city code, according to Miller. The extra spaces will be used for the seasonal garden sales area.
“We made sure it would be a good addition to the city,” Mayor Mike Gamache said. “I think it will be a positive in the end.”
One issue that residents concerned about the Walmart development brought up was traffic flow.
Fischer said the county highway department is still evaluating the traffic flow and access proposal.
The preliminary plan is to have two accesses on Jay Street and one access on Bunker Lake Boulevard, which is a county highway. at the Walmart site. The northern most Jay Street access at the back of the store would be for truck deliveries. The back side of the building is also where there be a trash compactor, loading and unloading area for semis and recycling area.
Fischer said the county is also evaluating whether the southbound Hanson Boulevard right-turn lane that enters the Andover Station North development at Jay Street can be extended in order to hold more vehicles and reduce the impact on others heading south. Hanson is also a county highway.
Another question mark is whether a three-quarters access at Bunker Lake Boulevard and Martin Street is feasible. This would benefit both Walmart and businesses on the south side of Bunker Lake Boulevard.
Presently, a concrete median prevents both directions of Bunker Lake Boulevard traffic to turn left into these commercial areas. They still would not be able to turn left from Martin Street onto Bunker Lake Boulevard with a three-quarters intersection, however.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org