By William Hladky, BrowardBulldog.org
Wal-Mart wants to build its first store in Fort Lauderdale – a Neighborhood Market on a seven-acre site on the southwest corner of Andrews Avenue and Sunrise Boulevard.
If built, it will be the first Walmart store in east central Broward County and the county’s third Neighborhood Market.
Walmart Neighborhood Markets primarily are grocery stores, smaller than the typical Walmart store or Walmart Supercenter.
The project has drawn early support from the leaders of nearby civic associations. Mayor Jack Seiler told BrowardBulldog.org the development would be a benefit to the adjacent Progresso Village neighborhood.
“The area is in need of an economic boost,” the mayor said.
Developer Frank Gatlin, CEO of Gatlin Development Company, and attorney Nectaria Chakas have met twice since January with the Progresso Village Civic Association, the neighborhood to the south and west of the mostly vacant development site, to discuss planning for the proposed 40,000-square foot store.
According to a map provided to the civic association, the development site would run from Sunrise Boulevard south to Northwest Ninth Street and Andrews Avenue west to Northwest Second Avenue. Several parcels on the site’s southwest corner are not included in the development plans.
In addition to the Walmart Neighborhood Market store, Gatlin’s plans include three additional freestanding buildings, ranging in size from 4,000 to 8,500 square feet. Chakas said in an interview on Friday that those buildings would be rented or sold to other retailers.
Chakas described the development as “a typical shopping center.”
Property records show that a limited liability company called Project Andrews owns most of the development site, 28 of the approximately 35 lots. State corporate records identity the managing member of Project Andrews as John K. Baldwin, of Saipan, in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Attorney Chakas, who represents Gatlin but not Walmart, said Walmart has yet to give Gatlin the go-ahead to proceed with the project. No property has been purchased, she said, adding that she did not know when the project would proceed. “We haven’t submitted anything (officially) to the city yet,” she said.
In June, 2012, Frank Gatlin signed a letter of intent to purchase Project Andrews 4.73 acres for $5 million. A January 13, 2013, project status report shows that Project Andrews’ land purchase cost rose to $5.5 million. Project Andrews was paid $50,000 last August as a deposit, with additional earnest money deposits scheduled.
The status report also shows that between $10,000 and $50,000 deposit money has been paid to five other property owners for their lots. Depending on the lot, the closing dates range from next June until January 2014.
In interviews, members with the Progresso Village Civic Association and of the South Middle River Association praised the project as a way to help to improve the economically depressed area.
Progresso Village vice president J.J. Hankerson, whose neighborhood is to the south and west of the site, called it “a plus for the community.” South Middle River president Sal Gatanio called the development a “win-win” for Walmart and his neighborhood.
“There are not many other stores (in the area),” Gatanio said. “There’s no place for people to go food shopping…If it happens it will be a great thing.”
Gatanio said the location for the planned development has long been “horrendous” and “nothing but a problem.” He added, however, that he was speaking only for himself because his association, which is north of Sunrise Boulevard, has yet to take an official position.
Progresso Village president Bradley Cohen supports the project.
Cohen said that during his association’s first meeting with developer Gatlin in January, several members expressed concerns about aspects of the development, including traffic patterns, parking and landscaping. He said their concerns were satisfactorily addressed during the association’s second meeting with Gatlin in February.
Mayor Seiler, who said he was first approached by developers last year, told BrowardBulldog.org that neighbors have also expressed concerns about proper lighting and security cameras.
Gatlin has told the Progresso Village Association that he wants to get the project moving “as soon as possible,” according to Hankerson. Gatlin was out of town last week and could not be reached for comment
Wal-Mart’s website says Neighborhood Markets have about 95 employees and are approximately one-quarter the size of a Supercenter. In addition to groceries, they have a pharmacy and sell other kinds of merchandise.
Through the end of January, Wal-Mart counted 4,625 stores in the U.S., including 267 Neighborhood Markets.
Last year, Wal-Mart purchased a 13-acre lot located on the southeast corner of Oakland Park Boulevard and Northeast Sixth Avenue in Oakland Park. The site is currently a K-Mart.
Last June, the Sun Sentinel reported that K-Mart’s lease does not expire for several years. Gatanio said he’s heard that when it does the K-Mart would be replaced by a Walmart Supercenter.