Walmart Neighborhood Market (Courtesy of Walmart)
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - When a large company decides to build a new store in your neighborhood, it could be easy to feel like there's a train traveling full speed right at you. How could you possibly stop it or send it down a different track?
It might seem impossible, but a group of neighbors in Winston-Salem found a way. Now, a developer and Walmart are willing to invest additional money into the project: more than $300,000 more.
A developer was working with Walmart to build a Neighborhood Market near the intersection of Country Club Road and Meadowlark Drive. Walmart Neighborhood Markets are similar traditional grocery stores.
Originally, the Walmart Neighborhood Market was going to be part of strip mall here on the property.
The project was zoned to be more than 70,000 square feet, but now the proposed store will be around 41,000. In addition, under the new proposal, it will be a stand-alone store with some upgrades to the building's appearance. Plus, the developer and Walmart have agreed to put in a new turning lane on Country Club Road to make traffic flow better.
People who have been working to make these changes happen say they've learned a lot from the experience.
"Stay involved. Be involved. Be part of the process. Reach out to people in your community that are part of the process. Know that you really can make a difference," community member Michelle Soyars said.
City Council Member Robert Clark said, "I personally think they have made some major concessions on the building. It's a much nicer façade. They've added additional lighting, additional landscaping on the back of the building, some walls in the back."
A Walmart spokesperson told WFMY News 2 it's not uncommon for the company to work with communities and city leaders to make changes to new stores.
"Overwhelmingly, what we are finding is that the more people get to know about us, the more they see the value in bringing a Walmart store to their neighborhood. In areas across the country, we engage with elected officials and community stakeholders in the community to listen to any concerns, answer questions, and share information about our company," Walmart spokesperson Amanda Henneberg said via email.
"WalMart continues to value the input of the community, and throughout the process, we have made several modifications to upgrade our elevations to be consistent with the surrounding community, and these modifications are reflected in our current plan. To more and more Winston-Salem residents living better means the ability to walk into a WalMart and find affordable food that will help their families live healthier lives. We think our Neighborhood Markets can be part of the solution in Winston-Salem to help ensure our customers in the area have access to the products they need," Henneberg added.
Walmart also emailed WFMY News 2 the following statement from Developer Ellen Dietrich: "Columbia Development has continued to work with the community to address their concerns as it relates to traffic improvements and aesthetics of the site. With the additional traffic improvement of extending the left turn lane on Country Club Road at the intersection of Meadowlark Drive, and upgrades to the landscaping and lighting, we are confident that the community will be pleased with our current plan."
Neighbors will be meeting over the next few weeks to talk about these proposed changes. At the end of next month, the council will formally vote on whether the project can move forward.
Councilman Clark says the land is already zoned for the original strip mall concept without council approval. But, the new plan with all the changes does require council approval.
"The Walmart representative told us flat out they will build the existing one if we do not approve the changed one," Clark said.