A nearly $2 million renovation project is underway to turn a vacant Martinez storefront into a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market.
Earlier in May, Columbia County Development Services issued a building permit to Wal-Mart for $1.9 million for renovations at the former Food Lion in the Village at Furys Ferry shopping center on the corner of Furys Ferry and Evans to Locks roads. That grocer, in addition to two other Food Lions in Columbia County, closed more than a year ago.
“They’re putting some money in that investment,” Columbia County Development Services Director Richard Harmon said. “It’s a fairly new concept for them and they want it to work.”
Neighborhood markets are smaller than a traditional Wal-Mart Supercenter, which is about 182,000 square feet. The stores, averaging about 38,000 square feet, offer grocery items, household supplies, health and beauty products and a pharmacy.
Harmon said work on the store’s interior began last week. A fence has been erected in the shopping center’s parking lot, shielding the store from plain view.
Wal-Mart spokesman Bill Wertz was unable Tuesday to provide a time frame for when the store might open, but Harmon said that plans indicate the project could take about 90 days.
“The problem is that they’re so different when we are using an existing structure,” Wertz said of estimating the store’s opening. “It’s not as predictable.”
The construction of a new neighborhood market typically takes less than year, he said.
On average, the stores employ about 95 people.
The bulk of construction will be confined to inside the 35,000-square-foot building.
“Most grocery stores have their coolers and refrigerants along walls,” Harmon said. “They’re putting a lot of their stuff in the center, so they’re having to cut the floor, put in more plumbing. It’s a lot of labor.”
This is Wal-Mart’s first neighborhood market in the metro Augusta area.
“People will shop that store and they know that,” Harmon said.
A second neighborhood market store is planned on 15th Street and Walton Way in Augusta, though details for the project aren’t firm, Wertz said.
Augusta planning and zoning administrator Bob Austin said he does not have a site plan for that project.
Site work on a 148,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter on Wrightsboro Road near North Leg Road, however, is expected to start in the next two weeks, Austin said.
A projected opening date has been set for March 2014.