BANGOR, Maine — The long-awaited opening of a new Wal-Mart store off Stillwater Avenue has finally arrived, albeit about a year behind schedule.
The retail giant will open its latest Maine megastore at 7 a.m. Wednesday, July 15, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The new store has nearly double the amount of space of the Wal-Mart location on Springer Drive. It also will add 200 jobs, bringing the total to 450 employees, and will feature wider aisles and more environmentally friendly features that have become standard with new construction, according to company officials.
“The layout of the store is easy to navigate, which will save our customers time as they shop for everyday necessities,” store manager Dale McMindes said. “We are making one-stop shopping even easier.”
The roughly $24 million construction project spanned about two years, but has been in the works for nearly five years. Aside from the building and parking lot construction, Wal-Mart’s developers made numerous improvements to Stillwater Avenue and created an additional entrance to the store near the intersection of Stillwater and Hogan Road.
The 50-acre parcel was purchased in September 2004 by W/S Development Associates of Massachusetts, a firm that develops large retail stores and shopping centers all over the East Coast. The same company has overseen a 26-store shopping center project in Ellsworth that also includes a Wal-Mart.
After some initial concerns about increased traffic and the impact on marshlands in the area, the Bangor project was approved in 2006 and construction began the next year. It was scheduled for completion by the summer of 2008, but that date was pushed back.
At 209,000 square feet, the retail store will be the largest in Greater Bangor. By comparison, the Wal-Mart on Wilson Street in Brewer is about 160,000 square feet and the existing Wal-Mart in Bangor is only 114,000 square feet. The new location will upgrade to include a full grocery store with bakery, deli, produce department and meat and dairy options, in addition to the company’s usual array of retail offerings. The building will have low-flow toilets and faucets as well as energy-efficient lighting.
To accommodate an expected increase in traffic, Wal-Mart committed about $3.5 million to road improvements, which included widening Stillwater Avenue, creating an additional access road extending from Hogan Road and installing traffic lights.
The Hogan Road extension will run from the Stillwater Avenue intersection between the Crossroads Plaza shopping center and the Country Inn. As part of that traffic change, a small portion of Kitteridge Road was closed and rerouted to Stillwater Avenue through the parking lot of the former Sunrise Home & Hearth building.
The road improvements were the primary reason for the delay in completing the project, but members of a local group committed to preserving the Penjajawoc Marsh also had concerns. To ease their environmental impact, the developers set aside 26 acres of the Wal-Mart parcel for conservation and a storm-water management system will be used. Also, 25 percent of Wal-Mart’s estimated $350,000 in annual property tax revenue will be used for conservation and environmental measures.
As for the Springer Drive Wal-Mart building, it’s expected to be renovated to make room for a Lowe’s Home Improvement store later this year or early next year.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the Arkansas-based retail giant, essentially has been recessionproof over the last year. While other retailers have struggled, the chain continues to expand. It now has 22 locations in Maine.