Construction starts on Wal-Mart

A construction crew works on a wall of the new Wal-Mart in Tega Cay on Thursday. The retail giant is expected to open in the spring.
A construction crew works on a wall of the new Wal-Mart in Tega Cay on Thursday. The retail giant is expected to open in the spring.

TEGA CAY -- Tega Cay's Wal-Mart is showing signs of life.

Construction crews have graded the site for the retail giant, and the concrete outer walls are taking shape.

After three years of controversy, a Wal-Mart near the intersection of S.C. 160 and Dam Road is becoming a reality.

"It's happening," said Tega Cay Mayor Bob Runde, adding the store is expected to open in April 2008. "All the requirements have been met and they're ready to go."

Rock Hill developer The Tuttle Co. proposed to build the Wal-Mart and surrounding Stonecrest Village in 2004. But arguments over annexation, design standards and zoning slowed the project. After terms were finally reached in 2005, construction was expected to begin in early 2006, but work didn't actually start until April of this year.

"We all agree it took longer than a lot of folks would have thought," said Tega Cay City Manager Grant Duffield. "But the project is moving along nicely at this point."

Duffield said the most recent hurdle involved Wal-Mart needing an extra slice of land. By the time the property was purchased, annexed and zoned, construction had been pushed back again, Duffield said. He doesn't expect any more snags.

Developer Bryan Tuttle said the lengthy battle to approve annexation and design standards was complicated because it's the first major commercial center in Tega Cay.

"It's a big project, and it had a lot of growing pains between municipal interests, development agreements and the world's largest retailer," Tuttle said. "You put those together and it's a perfect storm, and it happened a year later than we wanted."

Nevertheless, Tuttle said the work is moving full speed ahead. The Wal-Mart will adhere to strict, upscale design standards, he said, and some traditional elements such as the common "Always" and "We sell for less" logos will be omitted from the storefront.

The building also will have a mainly brick and glass storefront, instead of the traditional blue and gray facade.

Tuttle said the surrounding Stonecrest Village shopping center is coming together nicely, too.

About 26,000 square feet of boutique shopping will flank Wal-Mart, and negotiations are in the works to locate a bank and upscale restaurant on the site, Tuttle said.

Duffield said city officials have switched their focus from negotiating Wal-Mart site plans to planning for the reverberations Wal-Mart stores often bring, such as traffic. Duffield said he is asking S.C. Department of Transportation officials to survey traffic patterns on S.C. 160 and to synchronize stoplights to minimize traffic backups during peak shopping hours.

Additionally, he said, one of the requirements hammered out during planning for the store was the inclusion of a police substation at Wal-Mart to provide extra security. Police officials are making plans to staff the station and monitor the area, he said.

"We're hoping that presence will allow us to respond to any security concerns," Duffield said. "And it puts us much closer to any traffic concerns."