Walmart picks Cayce for first Midlands market

A neighborhood Walmart is scheduled to open in Cayce at the site of a former auto dealer on Knox Abbott Drive. Though smaller than supercenters, the new store is likely to affect traffic in the area. 5/7/15
A neighborhood Walmart is scheduled to open in Cayce at the site of a former auto dealer on Knox Abbott Drive. Though smaller than supercenters, the new store is likely to affect traffic in the area. 5/7/15

Retail giant Walmart is preparing to open its version of the local grocery, the first of its kind in the Midlands, at the site of a former auto dealership in Cayce.

A 8.3-acre site on Knox Abbott Drive would become home to a 40,000-square-foot “neighborhood market” flanked by a service station and 6,300-square-foot annex that could house up to four stores, plans submitted to city officials show.

The new Walmart will be a different outlet from what the company sought to open in Columbia in 2012, the development agent for both projects said last week. Work in Cayce is scheduled to start in late summer, with the store ready to open by the summer of 2016.

The Cayce plan is typical for Walmart’s local supermarkets, said Matt Sasser, an executive at the Atlanta development firm Bright-Meyers. His company often assists Walmart in opening new stores in the Southeast.

This location would be a quarter of the normal size of a 160,000-square-foot supercenter and 20,000 square feet smaller than the Columbia project, according to Walmart’s website.

The Cayce location would sell food and prescription medicine along with selected merchandise like health care and beauty products commonly available in other Midlands groceries, Sasser said.

Members of Cayce’s Planning Commission are reviewing the plan and could give it the green light as soon as May 18.

The go-ahead from that panel is all that’s required for redevelopment of most of a site once home to Love Chevrolet. A small piece would remain as an auto repair shop.

Walmart officials could not be reached for comment on what’s planned in Cayce.

Initial hostility toward the project is fading, some neighborhood and local business leaders say.

That stemmed from a misconception that the site would become the seventh Walmart supercenter in the area, they said.

Supercenters are known for heavy traffic and sometimes hurting mom-and-pop stores. “It was a cry against that,” Gregg Pinner, executive director of the Metro West Chamber of Commerce, said of initial opposition.

The project differs significantly from the scaled-down version of a supercenter once part of an unsuccessful effort to redevelop Capital City Stadium a few miles east across the Congaree River in Columbia, Sasser said.

Walmart neighborhood markets emphasize groceries instead of a wide array of merchandise that includes food as the smaller supercenters do, he said.

Developers are trying to alleviate concern about worsening congestion on the main commercial thoroughfare in the Lexington County community of 13,000 residents.

Bright-Meyers is paying for installation of a four-way traffic signal at the curved intersection where Knox Abbott and Charleston Highway meet.

It’s a change that city officials say is overdue on a road estimated to carry an average of 24,500 vehicles daily.

“I trust their plans will be sufficient and enhance what are already needed improvements,” Mayor Elise Partin said.

Some merchants hope the Walmart store combines with a new apartment complex rising along the riverfront a mile east as new commercial anchors in the center of the community.

“All that should help,” said Chris Kueny, owner of Sub Station II restaurant.

Partin didn’t say whether she favors the project but noted the area is “in need of another grocery store. This will provide citizens with another option.”

City officials have little say over what happens at the site since it is a private deal in a commercial area. “Our role is limited,” Partin said.

Protests led city leaders in Columbia to scrap a Walmart at the stadium, which was possible because the property is publicly owned.

Some customers of the new neighborhood market are likely to come from neighborhoods along nearby 12th Street.

But Sasser said the site was chosen for more than that. It sits in a densely populated area with only one other supermarket nearby, he said.

Redevelopment of property that’s sat empty for a few years is a shot-in-the-arm locally, Pinner said.

“That was something we were all concerned about.”

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483

Learn more

Members of the Cayce Planning Commission will review the proposal for the Walmart market at 6 p.m. May 18. The session will be at City Hall, 1800 12th St.

Public comment and questions are not allowed during the meeting under city rules.