Though Walmart was originally part of Legends’ overall design concept in 2006, the store did not build in the location it was slated for and surrendered the location to the current Target on Lincoln Way. Lowe’s took Target’s original spot and Walmart was out of the equation until Thursday.
City of Sparks Senior Planner Tim Thompson said the vacant lot was originally created for a luxury motorcoach dealership and not a ‘big-box’ retailer. He said a retailer like Walmart causes additional traffic and “requires further mitigation,” which prompted the special-use permit.
“The proposal is part of a larger destination retail and entertainment center which calls for approximately 1.3 million square feet of retail, entertainment and restaurant space,” Thompson said in his report. “The project is intended to draw tourists and visitors from outside the Truckee Meadows.”
Thompson said Windsurfer Drive has been an “unfinished city road for a long time” and added that staff was happy to have the road upgraded to provide semi-truck access to the new Walmart. He said though design plans are laid out and the special-use permit in place, there may be some adjustments before construction begins.
“Our staff is supportive of this plan,” Thompson said. “Naturally, there will be some tweaks and minor changes as the building permits near completion, but we are generally supportive of this plan.”
Thompson said city staff addressed a few concerns before completion of the special-use permit, including traffic, access and circulation, loading/delivery, screening, noise and architecture. Traffic analysis shows more than 9,000 average daily trips associated with the proposed Walmart, according to Thompson.
Traffic impacts will be solved through the widening of Marina Gateway Drive from two lanes to four lanes from E. Prater to E. Lincoln ways. Capacity improvements will be done to multiple streets that will include protected turn lanes and extended turn lanes in the area.
The noise conflict will be solved through sound walls at least 75 feet back from the nearest residential structure, which only lies on the west side of the property at Marina Village and Sparks Marina Park. No deliveries to the Walmart will be made between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. and all on-site maintenance, sweeping and snow removal can only be done between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Some of the concerns about Walmart’s arrival to Legends came Thursday evening when some residents spoke to the Planning Commission about possible downfalls of the business. Two residents shared the opinion that Walmart would bring negative effects to Legends and would hurt the businesses around it. Another person opposed to the idea said there was no need for it.
“Walmart offers nothing that is not immediately available at Legends already,” he told the commission. “I am concerned that now we will let any retailers into the Legends. That was not supposed to be the plan.”
Barry Shannahan, executive vice president of acquisitions for Red Development, said he was pleased with the number of retailers who have joined Legends in the past 18 months, accounting for 55,000 square feet of property. He told the Planning Commission he, and the team of architects on the project, was willing to work with the surrounding neighborhood to ensure they are happy with the sound barrier.
“The site that this project is on is not going to look like it does today,” he said. “We are going to grade and level the whole site and we will be placing a six-foot retaining wall with another eight-foot screen on top of that to reduce noise.”
Amelia McLear, senior manager of public affairs for Walmart, said the company has not closed any stores in the Reno-Sparks area and it does not plan to close any more with the addition of the Legends store.
“We project about 300 jobs to be created by this store and we will have a hiring center opened within three months of the grand opening,” McLear said. “We expect to put the project up for bid in the summer of 2014 and have the grand opening in the summer of 2015. Northern Nevada has been a good market for us and we have had a great customer response in this area.”
Walmart’s 50 Nevada stores and three distribution centers employ 14,151 associates. McLear said the Walmart in Spanish Springs off Pyramid Highway has given about $30,000 to Sparks entities during the past three years, including schools, the fire department and more. McLear said the new Legends Walmart will have similar capabilities upon opening.
The special-use permit was approved 6-1 with Commissioner James Fewins siding against the project. Commissioner Doug Voelz spoke to those in the audience who opposed the project before the vote, saying “this may look like a different project from the original plan, but it is a different world now.”