Cheektowaga resident Michelle Balk is satisfied that a proposed Supercenter Walmart on Walden Avenue will be a net positive to her neighborhood, but Jamie Popp of Clarence is disappointed that the nation’s largest retailer will supplant the existing Super Flea & Farmer’s Market.
Popp is a loyal customer.
The two were among dozens who attended an open house Monday at the nearby Private Leonard VFW Post, where Walmart representatives assembled to answer questions about the company’s plans to construct a new 183,000-square-foot, 24-hour supercenter that would replace Walmart’s current Thruway Plaza location.
Once construction is completed and the store opens, it will result in 85 new – mostly full-time – jobs, Walmart officials said. However, Popp noted, however, that the jobs of many more people already employed at the Super Flea & Farmer’s Market would be lost.
“There are more than 400 people that work there and depend on it for their income. For Walmart to come in there with 85 new jobs, what about the jobs that are going to be lost?” Popp asked.
Balk, who lives off Kingston Lane, near the site of the proposed supercenter, has a different view.
“Super Flea was a nice thing at one point, but Super Flea seems like it has gotten trashy, if I can call it that,” she said. “Now they’re going to have a nice store in there. It’s going to be handy and that much more people working there. I just thought it was a good idea.”
Perspectives on the loss of the Super Flea and the proposed supercenter vary. Residents living around the Super Flea site have, in the past, expressed frustration with problems at the weekend market, including complaints of criminal activity involving weapons and drugs, as well as issues involving maintenance, rodents, noise and traffic.
Many of those concerns were addressed sufficiently to gain the support of the Town Board in rezoning the 17.4-acre site at 2480 and 2490-2550 Walden Ave. in December, from light manufacturing to general commercial.
Walmart and the site developer, Benderson Development, still must go through the development process to secure proper approvals from the town before construction can start, but early indications from Cheektowaga officials seem to echo Walmart’s excitement for the project.
“We’ve got a good concept here with the Walmart,” said Town Supervisor Mary F. Holz, who attended Monday’s open house. “The flea market has been an eyesore in the Town of Cheektowaga for a long time. It needs to be replaced. It’s in an industrial neighborhood, but I’d rather see retail in that area developed along Walden Avenue.”
In addition to residents who were curious about the proposed project, about 25 members of Carpenters Local 276 also attended the open house to express their support for the supercenter.
“We’re securing membership work for the carpenter’s union,” said Len Ranallo, council representative for Northeast Regional Council Carpenters.
The next step in the process will be the official filing of preliminary development plans with the town. Then, mandatory state environmental reviews would be conducted, along with a traffic study.