Walmart's expansion plans on James Island seem inevitable, but its not going to be as easy as throwing some brown paint on the walls.
Larger expansion plans in 2004 and 2007 were sidelined after resident outcry, and other discussions in the past few years were slowed due to the recession. The latest plan to build on to the existing store would add square feet in the small area towards Folly Road.
"At this point, we have little or no recourse," says Amy Fabri, one of the grassroots activists who organized past challenges to Walmart's plans on the island.
Expected to take 18 months, Walmart says the expansion will provide a grocery in the store, adding 85 jobs. The site will remain open during the renovation. Walmart recently finished remodelling at the Rivers Avenue site, with a redesigned pharmacy, increased shelf space, and a larger media center.
Last week, the city's Commercial Corridor Design Review Board offered some hope that this won't be just another Walmart, deferring a decision on the application. The board also removed plans for 14 additional parking spaces, noting it was not required and didn't appear necessary for the site.
Fabri celebrated the decision. "We really have an opportunity to make something that fits in with the neighborhood," she says.
City planners will be working with Walmart architects to find a better alternative than replacing the current blank wall facing Folly Road with a new blank wall. The city's review board also wanted to see more detail in the storefront improvements.