ATASCADERO — After being in the works for more than a decade, Walmart representatives announced last week that the retailer would not be moving forward with a planned store at the corner of El Camino Real and Del Rio Road in Atascadero.
Walmart first submitted plans for a store in the city in 2007 and the final plans were approved by the City Council in 2012. Immediately after, a citizens group called Save Atascadero filed a lawsuit arguing that the city violated state environmental laws by not disclosing a two-page report on air quality in the area available to the public in a timely manner. The court ultimately ruled that the city had not violated any state laws and in 2014, Walmart affirmed that they would be moving forward with the project. Atascadero City Manager Rachelle Rickard said that since then city officials have assumed that the project would still happen, until learning otherwise late last week.
“On Friday morning, a little before 11 a.m., we received a call from Walmart representatives letting the city know that they were not moving forward with their project,” Rickard said at a City Council meeting Tuesday. “As for plans for the site, the representative indicated that they wanted to button up and get their entitlements and then the property will be on the market.”
According to Rickard, Walmart decided not to build the store because it is planning to move more toward e-commerce and online services.
“Of course they will continue with their brick and mortar stores, but they also did just spend more than $3 million to acquire jet.com to help them with their online sales,” Rickard said.
Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley, a long-time proponent of bringing Walmart to Atascadero, expressed his disappointment in a press release issued by the city Feb. 10.
“While we are disappointed in the news, had it been announced four years ago during the recession, it would have been more difficult to receive,” O’Malley said. “However, the City will be working with new potential partners and we are optimistic about the options that this retail location will offer.”
Rickard said that she’s looking forward to working with Walmart through the process of selling the property, adding that several potential developers have already shown an interest.
“While we’re disappointed with Walmart’s decision, it’s not the end of the world,’’ she said. “They are private property owners, so it’s when they choose to put it on the market, but we’re hoping that as they formulate their plans they’ll keep us informed.”
Even as the city is mourning the loss of potential tax income from the retail giant, Rickard said that the outlook for the future of Atascadero’s business community is still bright, with the property located directly to the west of Sunken Gardens recently being sold to a developer with plans to build several retail and restaurant spaces.
“We’re very excited as this new development will be a key in downtown Atascadero,” she said.