August 1, 2013

Walmart scraps planned expansion that closed Falmouth cinema

An attorney blames high construction costs, while a former town councilor expresses frustration that the town lost its only movie theater.

By J. Craig Anderson canderson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Walmart will not go ahead with a proposed store expansion in Falmouth that prompted the closing of an adjacent movie theater, a town official said.

click image to enlarge

An aerial view of the Falmouth business district, including Walmart, at upper right.

2012 Press Herald File Photo / Gabe Souza

Senior Town Planner Ethan Croce said he got a call this week from a Walmart attorney who said the Rogers, Ark.-based company has scrapped its plan to expand into the former Regal Cinemas, next to the Walmart in Falmouth Plaza on Route 1.

The attorney cited higher-than-expected construction costs as the reason, Croce said.

Walmart spokesman Bill Wertz confirmed that the company has decided not to move forward with the expansion, and that the reason is construction costs.

Wertz would not offer any additional details.

The town granted Walmart approval in November 2011 to convert its 92,000-square-foot store into a 124,000-square-foot Super Walmart by taking over the Regal Cinemas lease. The theater closed in April 2012 as a result.

Super Walmarts, which average just under 200,000 square feet nationwide, include grocery stores, pharmacies and garden centers, according to the company's website.

Falmouth passed an ordinance in the fall to limit the allowable footprint of big-box stores along Route 1 to 50,000 square feet, said former Town Councilor Bonny Rodden, who was involved in getting the limit passed.

A building's footprint is the square footage of its ground floor. The ordinance would not prevent a business from expanding beyond 50,000 square feet by adding floors, Croce said.

Because Walmart's expansion approval predates the passage of the footprint limit, the company was granted an exemption. The exemption will expire at the end of October if the company hasn't broken ground on the project.

Rodden said the aborted Walmart expansion wouldn't have been a problem if the town's only movie theater hadn't closed as a result.

"What's most frustrating to the residents of Falmouth is that they lost the theater thinking they were going to get a bigger Walmart," she said.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

canderson@pressherald.com

Twitter: @jcraiganderson

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