After a year of controversy and fanfare, Walmart is set to open its first Lakeville location tomorrow—Oct. 17.
Brenton Balvin, who spearheaded Walmart's hiring process in Lakeville said that all the employees are set to go for the opening of the new, 150,000 square foot building located at the corner of Interstate 35 and County Road 70 along Keokuk Avenue.
The store opens despite a bit of controversy during its planning construction. The store's announcement generated harsh words from residents who have criticized the company's pay rates, among other things, and last fall the store's construction came under fire from a local union that claimed Walmart was exploiting non-union workers.
At present, the company operates 20 Walmart stores in the seven-county metro area, but Walmart is actively seeking new real estate. The Arkansas-based company is in the midst of turf war with Minnesota-made competitor, Target, according to Tricia Pitchford, senior director of brokerage services for Cushman & Wakefield/Northmarq, who spoke with the Star Tribune recently. Walmart is in a good position to pick up prime real estate, even in the midst of a lingering recession. The corporation is flush with cash, thanks to budget-conscious consumers, and land prices continue to lag.
"They're being very opportunistic right now and aggressive in identifying sites," Pitchford said. "Walmart had been pretty quiet in our market for several years, and they had stayed in the outlying areas. I think Walmart really is stepping up and saying, 'we can get into the market.'"
Walmart has frequently encountered fierce resistance from residents as it aggressively expands into the region. From Blaine to Apple Valley, the company has seen pushback from angry taxpayers. Though in most cases Wal-Mart wins, citizen groups have succeeded in deflecting the company. In late 2011, the Chanhassen City Council voted down a proposal that called for a new Walmart Supercenter after facing pressure from a highly organized opposition group.
Nevertheless, Walmart hopes to have at least five more in the works before the year is out.
- A new store is slated to open in Burnsville on Oct. 26.
- Roseville is a contender for a Walmart store. The company has inquired about a brownfield property off Cleveland Avenue and County Road C, though some residents have organized a new opposition group called SWARN—Solidarity of West Area Roseville Neighbors.
- The company recently announced plans to build a supercenter in Cottage Grove, on the site of one of the state's last drive-in movie theaters, the Cottage View Drive-In. A petition calling for preservation of the drive-in is currently circulating online.
- The city council in Andover recently gave Walmart the OK to build on the site of a former sports bar. Residents came to the council with objections months before the plan had even been confirmed.
- The company has long had an interest in Plymouth, and has in fact bought a whole shopping center—the ailing Four Seasons Mall. The company bought the property two years ago, but backed off after residents rallied against it. The council put a moratorium on development at the site while the city studied the issue. The ban was lifted in November of 2011.