Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

January 4, 2011

Walmart is coming

Closing of deal brings supercenter closer to reality

TOWN OF LOCKPORT — Lockport’s Walmart Supercenter is nearing reality after passing an important hurdle last week.

The well known discount retailer completed the purchase of the long vacant Lockport Mall and obtained building and demolition permits from the Town of Lockport. The deal for the South Transit Road property closed Dec. 23 and the deed has been filed with the Niagara County Clerk’s Office.

Walmart, operating under the name Walmart Real Estate Trust of Bentonville, Ark., bought the former mall for $3.95 million from General Growth Properties of Chicago.

“The sale has been finalized,” said town Supervisor Marc R. Smith.

General Growth will remain the landlord for the Bon-Ton department store, and will own the properties that house the First Niagara, Arby’s and Wendy’s locations in front of the mall.

The last surviving tenant of the mall, the Bon-Ton will stay open and become a separate building from the mall, which will be demolished. General Growth will be responsible for the demolition, according to the 66 page development agreement filed with the county clerk’s office.

Walmart did not respond to a request for comment or information about when construction will begin on the supercenter.

The project, originally introduced in 2004 and submitted in revised form in February 2007, has taken some time to reach this point. The Lockport Mall closed in 2005.

In November 2007, the town Planning Board approved a series of waivers for Walmart, as well as its site plan and a special use permit. The waivers allowed the supercenter building to come close to a property boundary, which is what’ll happen with Bon-Ton close by.

But Smart Growth, the group of local opponents of the supercenter are known by, sued the town over the waivers. The contention was that the planning board broke state zoning law by giving the waivers to Walmart illegally. The lawsuit was dismissed in state Supreme Court in April 2008, which was upheld in its Appellate Division, 4th Department level in June 2009.

Before the clock started ticking on the waivers, permit and site plan, the town planning board passed a resolution that allowed the time period before expiration to start once all litigation was complete, Smith said. According to town code, waivers, special use permits and site plans expire after a certain period.

In February 2010 the state Court of Appeals denied Smart Growth’s appeal, the final legal hurdle for the Walmart project.

That was until General Growth filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and emerged in November 2010. The agreement filed with the county clerk’s office was signed by General Growth on Nov. 19 and then by Walmart on Dec. 21.

The agreement says General Growth cannot place any grocery store, discount store, wholesale club or pharmacy on the property it still owns at the mall site. Other banned uses of the General Growth property include theaters, bowling alley, nightclub, health clubs, spas or any business that sells alcoholic beverages. A full service restaurant would be able to sell alcohol though, and Bon-Ton doesn’t count as a discount store.

“Bon-Ton does not constitute a discount department store or discount store,” according to the agreement.

The three “outparcels” that host the First Niagara, Arby’s and Wendy’s locations can remain in their current forms, but the landscaping, drainage and access points might be subject to change. Walmart will pay for a new sign for its supercenter, the Bon-Ton and the outparcel tenants.

A Walmart supercenter is a combination of discount retail store and supermarket. Lockport’s 185,209 square foot center will replace the current Walmart, located less than half a mile south of the mall on South Transit Road.

Smith said there has been discussion about filling the building once Walmart relocates to the mall site, but nothing is certain yet.

In July 2009 Walmart opened a supercenter on Military Road in the Town of Niagara.

In other town news, Taco Bell’s new South Transit Road location is expected to be opening this week. The 62 seat restaurant will open on the former Long John Silver’s site at 5802 South Transit Road and feature a drive through lane. The 2,800 square foot facility will not include a KFC restaurant, the well known chain of chicken places is often located within a Taco Bell.

The project was approved by the planning board in June 2010. Opening in 1962 in San Bernardino, Calif., Taco Bell has more than 5,800 locations nationwide, including nine in Niagara and Erie counties.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.

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