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          Front Page




Wal-Mart Purchases 20 Acres for Store

By Joshua Akers
Journal Staff Writer
    There has been no announcement and no fanfare from retail giant Wal-Mart's corporate office. But all indications are the company is coming to Rio Rancho.
    The mega-retailer recently purchased just over 20 acres of commercial land from AMREP Southwest in the northwest corner of Unser and Southern Boulevard, according to documents filed at the Sandoval County clerk's office.
    The land purchase comes as the company's building permit is under review in the city's Development Department.
    According to that plan, Wal-Mart is planning a 214,000- square-foot Supercenter for the site.
    "The site plan is done, but they have remaining submittals on off-site improvements," City Administrator Jim Palenick said. "As soon as those are signed off on by staff, they (Wal-Mart) will be ready to break ground in early to mid-March."
    Wal-Mart spokeswoman Kimberly Randle was traveling Friday, according to her assistant, and did not return calls seeking comment. Calls to Wal-Mart seeking comment on the Rio Rancho store have not been returned for the past six months.
    Because the land is already zoned commercial, no public hearings are planned for the project.
    Wal-Mart, the world's largest private employer, had planned to seek about $1.6 million in tax breaks from the city to improve infrastructure and roads around the site.
    The company has decided not to pursue those tax breaks through the city's Gross Receipts Investment Policy, Palenick said.
    "It's a windfall for the city," Palenick said of Wal-Mart's decision not to pursue GRIP funding. "It works to the advantage of the city because we will receive an additional $1.6 million that we otherwise would have had to incentivize."
    Under the GRIP proposal, the city would have refunded half of the gross receipts tax collected by Wal-Mart over three years to defer the cost of planned improvements.
    Instead, Wal-Mart will fully pay for improvements to the Southern and Unser intersection and other improvements.
    The cost of the intersection improvements was estimated to be about $900,000.
    The city's zoning manager, Dolores Wood, said she expects the review of Wal-Mart's construction plans to be finished in the next week or two.
    "In conjunction with construction plans being reviewed, traffic impact and infrastructure plans need to be reviewed," Wood said.
    Once the permits are issued, the company can begin construction, Wood said.
    Palenick said Wal-Mart officials have told the city the construction time averages about 10 months.
    The company is planning a unique facade for the building to mask the typical box appearance of large retail chain stores.
    "We are very pleased. This will be a Wal-Mart unlike anything you have ever seen," Palenick said. "It will look like a bunch of small buildings, like a village or small downtown, not a big box."