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Wal-Mart aims to supersize

Fargo's Wal-Mart store likely will be supersized in the coming year. The discount retail giant will add 108,000 square feet to the 118,000-square-foot store if the company and Fargo officials can agree on a plan that won't snarl traffic on heavil...

Fargo's Wal-Mart store likely will be supersized in the coming year.

The discount retail giant will add 108,000 square feet to the 118,000-square-foot store if the company and Fargo officials can agree on a plan that won't snarl traffic on heavily traveled 45th Street Southwest and 13th Avenue Southwest.

Wal-Mart officials recently approached city planners and engineers with a plan to create a Supercenter by adding to the west, north and east sides of the current store.

A Wal-Mart Supercenter is essentially a large grocery store combined with a discount store.

An early sticking point in that plan is a request by Wal-Mart to vacate a planned extension for 47th Street Southwest just east of the present store's garden center.

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The planned extension was to funnel traffic from Ninth Avenue Southwest to 47th Street and reduce traffic on 45th Street.

Wal-Mart proposed putting a signal light at 11th Avenue South and offered to pay some of the cost, said Rick Lane, Fargo's senior engineer for transportation.

But Lane said the city must study traffic in the area to be sure another signal light won't seriously snarl traffic.

While it's early in the planning process, Wal-Mart has offered to pay $8,000 of the $14,000 study, Lane said.

Fargo Senior Planner Cindy Gray said the Supercenter and Sam's Club would create 7½ acres of enclosed retail space.

Gray said the Supercenter is a good use for the land given how the area has developed.

Just northeast of Wal-Mart and south of Ninth Avenue Southwest the city is building a large stormwater retention pond. The Kroll's Diner facing 45th Street blocks street exposure for undeveloped land between Kroll's and Wal-Mart, making it less desirable to stores and restaurants.

"So, really, what better use is there," Gray said. "The city benefits a lot" through tax collections.

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"If this land can be put to good use by them, it will probably happen quicker," she said.

However, given how quickly fall can turn into winter in the Red River Valley, Gray said if Wal-Mart follows through on its plans, work likely would not start until 2004.

Wal-Mart has not approached Dilworth about converting that store to a Supercenter, City Planner Stan Thurlow said.

Fargo Wal-Mart Manager Clark McCall referred calls to John Bisio, community affairs manager for this region. He could not be reached for comment.

A Supercenter in Fargo would squeeze local grocery store chains such as Sunmart, Hornbacher's Foods and Cash Wise Foods.

John Hauptman, vice president of grocery industry consultant Willard Bishop Consulting, told the International Council of Shopping Centers that the explosion of supercenter growth by Wal-Mart, Target Stores and K-Mart is "the single greatest threat" to traditional grocery stores.

Dean Hornbacher, president of Hornbacher's Foods in Fargo and Moorhead, said he's prepared to fight for his share of the market.

"It creates new competition. Anytime there's new competition, it affects everybody in the market. They're going to be here and we plan to be here, too," Hornbacher said Friday.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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