Sam’s Club plans to open Village at Sandhill store

Village at Sandhill is a 300-acre lifestyle shopping center located in the northeast area of Columbia. Sam’s Club will be building a new store along Forum Dr., behind the main fashion center.
Village at Sandhill is a 300-acre lifestyle shopping center located in the northeast area of Columbia. Sam’s Club will be building a new store along Forum Dr., behind the main fashion center. The State

Sam’s Club, the membership-only discount retailer based in Arkansas, plans to build a 136,000-square-feet warehouse superstore at Village at Sandhill, according to Richland County documents.

The store is to be constructed on 23 undeveloped acres along Fashion Drive at Forum Drive at the rear of the sprawling, 300-acre shopping complex, between Plex Indoor Sports – Sandhill and Two Notch Road.

If approved, construction would begin in August and take two years to complete, according to design documents filed recently with the county planning department.

The proposed Sam’s Club would be the warehouse chain’s third – and largest – facility in the Columbia area, selling bulk varieties of foods, household items, electronics and other goods. Plans call for a single entry point from Fashion Drive, which intersects with Two Notch Road, into the warehouse store’s property. The store will feature nearly 550 parking spaces.

A 16-bay gas station is to be at the front of the property.

Wal-Mart had no comment Monday on the Sam’s Club plans for Northeast Richland, but the real estate arm of the company submitted a full slate of permit requests, environmental documents, power and water usage, traffic and other construction-related filings to the county during the past month.

The new project still would have to go through normal planning and development approvals to go forward.

Sam’s Club has two other stores in the Midlands, on Forest Drive and off Harbison Boulevard. It would be opening in Northeast Richland along another stretch of Fashion Drive where a 240-unit apartment complex is nearing completion – meaning considerably more traffic for the area.

The northeast store likely is to be seen as a big boost both to continued overall development in the area and to the Village at Sandhill, Columbia developer Alan Kahn’s beleaguered, prize career accomplishment, which last year came out of a $100 million Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Kahn, who started Village at Sandhill in 2004, ultimately lost about one-third of the lifestyle, entertainment, retail and office complex to foreclosure when he could not find purchasers for a portion of the complex he had leveraged with loans.

Kahn did not respond Monday to a request for comment about the Sam’s Club plans, its potential impact on Village at Sandhill or Northeast Richland.

Sam’s Club, owned by Wal-Mart and named after founder Sam Walton, is the second-largest wholesale club operator in sales in the United States, next to Costco, according to online encyclopedia Wikipedia and Yahoo! Finance. Sam’s other primary warehouse competitor is BJ’s Wholesale Club, based in Massachusetts.

BJ’s is planning a store about 3 miles away along Sparkleberry Lane off Two Notch. Costco has flirted with locations in the Columbia area but has yet to announce it is opening a store.

BJ’s first store in South Carolina is to be on a 15-acre site and would replace a 200,000 square feet manufacturing plant on Sparkleberry Lane Extension. Those plans are pending.

Kahn had courted Washington state-based Costco in 2006 to locate a store at Village at Sandhill, but was not successful. He went to Las Vegas to meet with company officials.

Two years ago, Costco said it had settled on building its first Columbia-area, members-only warehouse on a 17-acre site at Piney Grove and Fernandina roads, but site improvements that were needed pushed the cost too high.

Similar to downtown Columbia and the broader region, Northeast Richland is seeing gains in new retail businesses, according to the latest market reports. Work is set to begin on a new Kroger grocery store farther west from Village at Sandhill on Clemson Road at Killian’s Crossing.

Reach Burris at (803) 771-8398

Twitter: @RoddieBurris

Sam’s Club current site

▪  5426 Forest Drive

▪  350 Harbison Blvd.

BJ’s Wholesale Club proposed site

▪  117 Sparkleberry Lane Extension