Nearly five years ago, a 24.94-acre parcel of land on South Church Street was rezoned from residential to allow for a planned development that included a big box retailer.
Rumors circulated for years about a Target joining the neighborhood. Some residents even wanted a Home Depot or Lowe’s.
But then the recession hit, and plans were put on hold.
That is, until now.
Wal-Mart representatives officially submitted a site plan Monday morning to the Murfreesboro Planning Department for a brown, smaller version of the other two stores located within the city.
The plan calls for a 152,078-square-foot building at the corner of Shelbyville Highway, otherwise known as South Church Street and County Farm Road, complete with a grocery market, pharmacy, home goods and outdoor living departments.
It features a broken façade and variation in building materials, including architectural masonry, stone veneer and decorative molding in colors like saddle tan, cobble brown, Aztec tan, dark brown and meadowlark. This look is common with Wal-Mart’s Neighborhood Markets, like the one located on Edmondson Pike in Nashville. At the time of the planned development’s approval in 2007, city planners aimed for the building to resemble the upscale look of the Oaks Shopping Center at the corner of Medical Center Parkway and Thompson Lane in Murfreesboro.
The proposed building will be about three-fourths the size of Wal-Mart stores currently located on Old Fort Parkway and South Rutherford Boulevard, which are about 210,000 square feet.
According to the site plan, three traffic signals have been slated for the roadways around Wal-Mart, including one at the corner of Shelbyville Highway and County Farm Road, one to allow access into the retailer’s parking lot at Shelbyville Highway and another for the same purpose at County Farm Road.
No groundwork has been performed yet; however, Wal-Mart officials have been on-site surveying the land and drilling to learn of its the underground conditions – all of which is standard in such a project, said Murfreesboro Planning Director Joseph Aydelott.
A project of this size takes about 18 months, he said, and its opening should coincide with the extension of Joe B. Jackson Parkway (at County Farm Road) to Shelbyville Highway.
A review session was planned for Wednesday, and the site plan is expected to be added to the Wednesday, May 16, Planning Commission agenda for discussion and approval.
Because the land was rezoned in 2007 in a procedure that included a public hearing and site plans do not require public hearings, local residents will not have an opportunity to come forward with comments in a public manner.
However, Aydelott said the planning staff welcomes any concerns or questions that may arise before the meeting.
He added that at the time of the approval, there was not a lot of neighborhood opposition in that immediate area.
“A couple of people showed up who were against it, and others showed up who were for it,” Aydelott remembered. “Not a lot of people participated at all.”
Tonya Allen, owner of Allen Haven Massage Therapies on South Church Street, watched the public hearing on television. Because her home and business are located on the Rutherford County side of the highway, she opted not to participate.
That said, she isn’t exactly opposed to Wal-Mart opening up shop down the street and chalks it up as natural growth.
“Personally, I probably would have preferred a Super Target or a Target, but we knew about two or three years ago that it was going to be a Wal-Mart,” Allen said, adding she’d heard it was supposed to be smaller and look nicer than the other two stores in Murfreesboro. “As a business owner, it’s good for business to have more exposure.”
She’s also looking forward to having a stop light at the intersection of Shelbyville Highway and County Farm Road to force drivers to slow down.
“As homeowner, I can understand how people don’t like change, but change happens,” Allen continued. “Just make sure that city planners look into it to and control it and put the infrastructure into handling it. That’s pretty much the most important thing. My mom used to have saying, ‘You can move out from the city, but the city is going to move out to you. Just give it time.’”
With the recent closing of Food Lion, Allen says resident and business owners shop at Kroger because it is the only supermarket on South Church Street.
“If (Wal-Mart) is just going to be grocery, it will give Kroger competition,” she said. “We hated it when Food Lion closed. It will be nice not to have a whole lot of traffic.”
While she isn’t opposed to the new store, Allen said, “Three Wal-Marts in this town doesn’t make sense to me, especially with one in Shelbyville. But, it makes more sense to me if it is primarily a grocery. When connect to Amazon, it will make it a quick shot for folks traveling (that way).”
Allen said she is also preparing for more light pollution and will be purchasing blinds to block it out of the windows.
“There will be an increase in traffic and light pollution, but that’s part of growth. And people will pay for convenience,” she said.