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Wal-Mart will work on traffic issues

The county wants turn lanes and a traffic signal for a planned supercenter at Gunn Highway and Henderson Road.

By TIM GRANT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 5, 2003

CARROLLWOOD -- A Wal-Mart Supercenter planned for Gunn Highway will have a big impact on traffic and retail business in the commercial corridor between Anderson and Sheldon roads.

While the mega store will not open until March 2004, work crews will soon be a common sight at Gunn Highway and Henderson Road.

Peter Kanelos, a community affairs manager for Wal-Mart in San Diego, said it will take up to 10 months to build the 207,000-square-foot building and another two months to fill the shelves with merchandise.

"We'll have a pharmacy, optical, tire and lube, one-hour photo and banking at that store," Kanelos said, adding that nearly 500 people will be hired to work there as Wal-Mart associates.

County officials expect the Wal-Mart Supercenter to add another 6,500 cars to Gunn Highway each day. But Kanelos thinks that figure could be misleading.

"Wal-Marts have a tendency to reduce overall traffic because it's one-stop shopping," he said. "In the long run, it reduces the number of trips and that's why our customers like supercenters."

To offset the traffic impact, the county is requiring Wal-Mart to install turn lanes on Gunn and Henderson. Wal-Mart also must pay to install a traffic signal at that intersection.

It's still uncertain how the retail giant will affect smaller businesses along Gunn Highway. Across the county, Wal-Marts have been known to have a negative impact on small retailers.

Kanelos said he believes the supercenter will contribute to the business climate around Gunn Highway.

"Typically supercenters tend to be a benefit to businesses because they draw people into a trade area who don't usually come there," Kanelos said.

"If you notice, a lot of businesses tend to crop up around supercenters. That's because Wal-Mart is good for other businesses."

-- Tim Grant can be reached at (813) 269-5311 or at .

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