The proposed Walmart Supercenter at the former Kmart location on Oakland Park Boulevard has city commissioners in Wilton Manors worried.
“It’s going to be a nightmare without controls,” said Mayor Gary Resnick at a recent commission meeting.
Oakland Park Commissioners are being asked to approve the construction of a new 121,345 square foot building. The existing vacant Kmart building is 117,692 square feet. The number of parking spaces will also increase from 475 to 494 and the new building would be closer to Oakland Park Boulevard and further from the Middle River. Oakland Park officials hope to make the riverfront portion of the property part of a planned half mile promenade stretching from Northeast 6 Avenue to Dixie Highway.
The building is located at 670 E. Oakland Park Boulevard. Wilton Manors is to the west, the other side of Northeast 6 Avenue, and to the south, the other side of the Middle River. The store would have between 225 and 350 employees.
Even if the commission rejects the project, Walmart can move into the existing building because it’s already zoned for that use. The vote, which has been postponed twice, is scheduled to be held tonight, Aug. 5, at Oakland Park City Hall.
Vice Mayor Tim Lonergan and Commissioner John Adornato have abstained from the vote, saying the companies they work for have done business with Walmart or its foundation. That leaves the decision to the three remaining commissioners – Mayor Jed Shank and Commissioners Sara Guevrekian and Shari McCartney.
Steven Wherry, the Fort Lauderdale attorney representing Walmart, told Oakland Park Commissioners that moving into the existing building was not the first choice of Walmart but that the company would do so if its request to redevelop was denied. “The worst case scenario, Walmart will move into the [existing] Kmart.”
Wilton Manors officials, who have spoken at Oakland Park Commission meetings, say their main concern is an estimated increase of traffic on Northeast 6 Avenue adjacent to the Kmart site.
Commissioner Tom Green said traffic from the Walmart could have an adverse impact on Wilton Drive, about half a mile south. “It may force us to narrow Wilton Drive,” he said.
Walmart has agreed to some restrictions on Northeast 6 Avenue, including a promise that their truck drivers will not make right hand turns onto the street to make deliveries. “We’re willing to commit to not making that turn. Walmart has control over its fleet of trucks. We can make a commitment like that and stick to it. We can be flexible,” Wherry said.
The reaction by residents, both in Oakland Park and Wilton Manors, has been more mixed. Some are worried about delivery trucks and an increase in traffic while others, including Oakland Park resident James Andrews, who lives next to the Kmart, said he will be able to walk to the store and expects his property values to go up.