Wal-Mart work to start in 2008

NEWPORT -- The developer of a new Wal-Mart says it will be next year before construction begins on York County's newest supercenter.

The controversial mega-retailer plans to locate its fourth York County store near the intersection of S.C. 161 and Heckle Boulevard, northwest of Rock Hill in the Newport community. Plans to break ground this summer were announced last year, but it will be 2008 before visible progress takes root.

"We hope to get started sometime in the early spring," said Elexa Wagaman, project manager for Meyers Brothers Properties, the Atlanta-based developer building the shopping center.

Wagaman said the developer is trying to obtain all the needed permits before breaking ground, and it could be 2009 before the giant shopping center opens.

"We're jumping through all the hoops right now," she said. "But we're making progress, moving right along."

The supercenter, which will be joined by several retail outparcels on the 58-acre site, will become the first major retail center in Newport, a once rural community seeing spinoff growth from Rock Hill and Lake Wylie. Some area residents strongly opposed the development at first, fearing it would cramp their quiet lifestyle, but cooled after hearing design plans.

Don Walker, owner of nearby Newport Hardware, said he doesn't expect Wal-Mart and its "We Sell For Less" mantra to cut into his business.

"I don't think it will be detrimental to us," Walker said. "We've got it together over here. We'll be fine."

The project will include road improvements to S.C. 161, a road recently expanded to five lanes. Stoplights and turn lanes will be installed at the side entrances to the store at Pennington Road and Miller Pond Road to ease traffic flow. The front entrance along S.C. 161 will be designed so a traffic signal can be added at a later date if needed, according to the development's master plan.

The plan, submitted to Rock Hill planning officials earlier this year, shows the supercenter will be located towards the back of the lot, off the roadway. It will sport a largely-brick facade, unlike the typical blue and gray concrete designs used at many Wal-Marts. The other shops will face the Wal-Mart, creating a town center ambiance, plans show, similar to the Wal-Mart shopping center being constructed in Tega Cay. It also will include trees, retention ponds and fencing along Miller Pond Road to separate itself from nearby neighborhoods.

Rock Hill city planner Eric Hawkins said the designs meet all city requirements, and the city is waiting on final construction plans before giving a final OK to the project. The site was annexed into Rock Hill city limits in January.