THOMASTON, Maine — After years of work by developers, a proposed Super Wal-Mart on U.S. Route 1 is closer to being a reality, according to project officials.
Scott Shapiro of the Portland firm Shapiro Development said Monday that if all goes as planned, his company will obtain permits this year and begin construction as soon as a year from now on the 150,000-square-foot building that likely will house the Super Wal-Mart. Several other, smaller buildings also would be built as part of a “community shopping center,” Shapiro said.
“We’ve had good positive response from the town and from people in town,” he said. “I think, over the years, Wal-Mart’s reputation has really changed a lot from what it used to be.”
Shapiro said his company has options to purchase about 40 acres on the eastern side of Route 1, roughly across from the Lowe’s complex.
Although the property is primarily empty fields, he said, it is right next to one of the midcoast’s tastiest landmarks — Dorman’s Dairy Dream, which has provided ice cream cones and sundaes to customers each summer since 1951.
According to Thomaston Code Enforcement Officer Peter Surek, a bypass lane that would allow traffic to turn easily off Route 1 into the proposed shopping center needs to have 5 additional feet of land to be constructed.
“The plan is to move the ice cream stand to the east of where it’s located now,” he said. “[Developers] would create an additional entrance to it.”
Shapiro said that right now it isn’t a certainty the bypass lane would have to be built and that he has been discussing the future of the Dorman’s Dairy Dream with the family that owns it.
“The business could remain as it is. Nothing would really change,” he said.
However, owner Janice Cross, the daughter of founder Kendrick Dorman, said her business “has no contract” with the developers and she has been frustrated by recent reports saying otherwise.
“I have no idea what we’re going to be doing,” she said. “Nothing’s in the works right now. I’m not giving up my property.”
Shapiro said he took over the development plans from the Richmond Co., which had been working to get approvals for permitting for several years.
The Thomaston planning board approved the project in 2007, with the understanding that the developer would need to build the bypass lane and also a stoplight, Surek said.
“Their development was going to be quite a bit larger than what I’m proposing,” Shapiro said.
His development would include a 6,500-square-foot building fronting Route 1 and three additional buildings totaling 45,000 square feet located in the back, which he described as a “community shopping center.”
At 150,000 square feet, the likely Super Wal-Mart building is a giant — with a single-story building roughly the size of three football fields. Nationally, the Arkansas-based retailer has been aiming to expand from its traditional stores into super centers, where customers can purchase groceries, Shapiro said.
The Wal-Mart in Rockland does not have the space to expand and the Route 1 property, located close to the Rockland town line, “had the best fit,” Shapiro said.
“Wal-Mart has looked at the property for a long time,” he said.
The next step in the development process will be to apply for a permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, he said.
Shapiro said his company is working with different prospective tenants to fill the spaces, and is looking locally — as well as among the national chains — to find a restaurant for the shopping center.
“It’s tough right now with the economy,” he said. “Retailers aren’t jumping to any location they can the way they used to. And not everybody’s eager to talk about Maine right now, because the population isn’t there.”