July 23, 2014

Elyria
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New Wal-Mart delayed

Company still plans to build superstore near Midway Mall

ELYRIA — The larger Wal-Mart planned for north of Midway Mall has been delayed for at least a year, but the company is pledging to keep the smaller store on Midway Boulevard open until its replacement is built.
“We’re committed to our customers in Elyria,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Mia Masten. “There will be no disruption in service to our customers at our Midway store while the Griswold store is being built.”
Wal-Mart initially said it would break ground in June on the 184,000-square-foot superstore on Griswold Road, but there’s been no activity on the site except for the removal of an old bus garage.
Plans now call for construction to start sometime next year, Masten said.
“We hope to start the process in spring 2008,” Masten said.
In the meantime, shoppers at the 130,000-square-foot Wal-Mart on Midway Boulevard said they are enjoying the easy access to parking spaces now that the 205,000-square-foot Wal-Mart at Chestnut Commons is siphoning customers.
“I come here because it’s in and out,” said Tina Leonard of Elyria, who was shopping with her son Joseph, 10. “It’s not as busy (as Chestnut Commons).”
But Edma  and Alex Andino said they’re looking forward to a new superstore with groceries, which are not offered at the current Midway Boulevard store.
“We want the cheaper prices on food,” said Edma Andino, who recently moved to Lorain from Florida.
She said she didn’t even know there was another Wal-Mart in Elyria at Chestnut Commons, on the city’s southeast side off state Route 57, near state Route 10.
The fewer customers at the Midway location has led to employee hours being cut, according to an associate who did not want to be named. She said some employees are transferring out — sometimes taking demotions to do so.
The employee said her 40-hour week at $9.40 an hour has been cut to 36 hours. The alternative is to transfer to the Oberlin store, where she would earn $8.60 an hour because it is in a rural area, she said.
Masten said she couldn’t address the employee’s complaint except to say that wages in urban versus rural Wal-Marts reflect the communities in which the stores are located.
Masten said the hours of operation near Midway will remain the same.
The Midway Boulevard store is open 7 to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 to 10 p.m. Sundays. The superstore at Chestnut Commons is open 24 hours every day except Christmas, when it is closed.
Developer Dave Bruening of Stamford Properties said he was confident the Griswold store would be built, saying the building site makes sense. It’s centrally located to serve several key markets, including Elyria and Lorain, and “there’s not a lot of decent (building) sites.”
A declining tenant base at Midway Mall, including the pending closure of the Dillard’s, doesn’t concern him, Bruening said.
“Dillard’s has nothing to do with Wal-Mart,” Bruening said. “It means nothing, zero.”
Bruening said he also is bullish on Midway because he saw the exciting new plans that Midway’s owner, mall giant Centro Watt, was recently promoting at a mall conference in Las Vegas. He said the plans included a state-of-the-art movie theater and a reconfiguration of the current JCPenney store.
Penney’s is building a new store in Avon, and its future in Elyria is uncertain, according to Pete Lorandeau of the Elyria Building Department.
“What Penney’s told me was they’re going to wait to build the new store in Avon and go over there,” Lorandeau said.
Mayor Bill Grace said he is “98 percent sure” that the new Wal-Mart at Griswold Road would be built.
He said that the mall’s owners haven’t shared the redevelopment plans with him, but he was hopeful something will be done.
“It’s looked dated for many years,” Grace said.
The city’s long-term planning effort, Elyria 2015, looked at ways to ease traffic and beautify the entire mall area, which includes several shopping complexes, he said.
Grace said the city could offer tax incremental financing to the mall owners to encourage investment. The financing allows certain taxes to be deferred to pay for improvements.
Susan Goderov, a spokeswoman for Centro Watt, declined to share the plans for a mall renovation with The Chronicle.
“Those were prepared just to see what the level of interest was from potential retailers,” Goderov said. “They’re not plans we’re ready to go forward on.”
Goderov also declined to discuss the future of the Dillard’s store, which Centro Watt officials have said they want to buy from Dillard’s, or what will happen with the JCPenney store.
Earlier this month, an employee at JCPenney told The Chronicle that the company told employees it would fulfill its contract to stay at Midway through 2009.
Grace said he didn’t know about the future of the Dillard’s store and whether it would continue as an outlet with discounted items, some shipped in from other stores.
“They announced they were closing in May, and here they are in July still open,” he said.
Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.