AIKEN -- The rumors have been circulating for nearly a year, but officials confirmed Friday that the Home Depot has its eyes on the former Wal-Mart building in Heritage Square.
Representatives from Greenberg-Farrow, an architectural firm in Atlanta, met with members of the Aiken Planning Department two weeks ago to tour the building, which has sat vacant at least two years, and other empty storefronts in the Aiken area.
"We've been talking with them very informally at this point, but no official decision has been made," said Chuck Borysiak, site development coordinator for Greenberg-Farrow. "It's purely an investigative process, but the former Wal-Mart building is our primary site."
Greenberg-Farrow designs about 80 percent of the Home Depot stores nationwide.
Mr. Borysiak and other representatives of the architectural firm are to meet with the Aiken Planning Commission on Tuesday before its regularly scheduled meeting.
The company will present preliminary site and landscape plans for the home building center.
If Aiken is the chosen site, Lowe's, which has sewn up the local market, could feel the sting of competition.
Construction of the Lowe's 150,000plus-square-foot superstore continues in earnest for the mid-1998 opening.
Lowe's, a 51-year-old retailer based in North Wilkesboro, N.C., has been expanding aggressively to compete with Home Depot.
Fired from their jobs at a California home improvement chain after new management took over in 1978, Bernard Marcus and Arthur Blank opened the first three Home Depot stores in Atlanta a year later.
Today it is North America's largest and most successful home improvement retailer, with $1 billion in profits and nearly 600 stores in the United States and Canada.
This year, it will expand to South America, where its first store will open in Chile.
In its 20th year, Home Depot has enjoyed 44 consecutive quarters of record earnings and has been voted America's Most Admired Retailer by Fortune magazine four years in a row.
Fiscal 1996 revenues were a record $19.6 billion.