BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Often in the dark about its progress, Town of Lockport officials received word this week that there is a light at the end of the Walmart tunnel.
Construction on the proposed Walmart Supercenter will begin in the next 30 days, the retail giant confirmed Wednesday.
Town Supervisor Marc R. Smith was informed Tuesday by APD Engineering & Architecture, the Victor engineering firm working on the supercenter project, that Walmart had chosen the DiMarco Group as general contractor. The Rochester-based firm has been doing site work for Walmart since the spring.
The DiMarco Group's selection comes about nine years after the supercenter project was first introduced. Walmart received planning board approval in 2007 and bought the former Lockport Mall site on South Transit Road in 2010.
It's been a long time coming for the Town of Lockport.
"Nothing will please the residents of this community more than to see something up this fall," Smith said.
The construction project was awarded on Friday, said Amanda Henneberg, a Walmart spokesperson. Once construction begins, it typically takes about a year to complete.
Walmart has been held up by a number of legal challenges, the last one was turned away in October. And then those infamous seagulls got involved, nesting on the site from March until August for the last two years, causing another delay. Federally protected, Walmart couldn't move forward until the seagulls were safely removed from the site or discouraged from nesting there.
After two summers of dealing with birds, Walmart took action this spring. Buffalo Exterminating was called out to the mall site in March, getting rid of any nesting materials and encouraging the birds to leave.
"It looks like the steps we’ve taken to discourage sea gulls from nesting on the site have been effective," Henneberg said.
Lockport’s 185,209 square-foot supercenter will replace the current Walmart, located less than half a mile south of the mall on South Transit Road. There are about 200 people working at the current Walmart.
Town officials have said they have interested parties in the would-be vacant Walmart building. Smith said at least one department store has expressed interest.
Walmart bought the former Lockport Mall site in a deal that closed Dec. 23 of 2010. The retailer bought the South Transit property for $3.95 million from General Growth Properties of Chicago.Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.