Sal Biondo, a developer with Coastal Retail Services, said Tuesday the plan to open a Walmart Neighborhood Market at the intersection of S.C. 170 and Bluffton Parkway is still on.
“Things just got slowed up so much because we had to do so much re-engineering on the site,” he said.
The store, which has been “coming soon” for nearly two years and was set to begin construction in August, according to a partner with the developer, has seen little progress at the site as of late. But Biondo said there are still intentions to build and hopefully soon.
Currently, Biondo said, and the developer is waiting to hear from the retailer for the green light.
“I mean, it’s just such a big company, but hopefully we’ll hear about that right at the first of the year,” he said.
According to Biondo, each Walmart store is drawn from scratch and the plans for the Bluffton Walmart Neighborhood Market are currently being worked on. He said Walmart has pushed back a couple of its stores’ opening dates due to overload and the developer is now at the company’s beck and call.
“That’s one of the things that happens when a client is building stores around the country,” he said.
The site had a rather high water table that may or may not have been caused by construction on S.C. 170, Biondo said, so his team decided to wait on completing site work to see if the water table would drop a bit while Walmart completes its final plans.
“Since Walmart has pushed back some dates, we just decided to give it some time to see if it helps,” he said.
When asked why the sign formerly at the site announcing the Walmart Neighborhood Market’s opening was removed, Biondo said he and his team wanted to wait until they knew when the exact opening date would be and then post a new sign.
“The expectation of always seeing that all the time and not seeing anything happen makes some people wonder what’s going on,” he said. “So we just decided that was the best way to do it.”
Kevin Icard, planning and community development manager with the Town of Bluffton, said the town had not received building permits for the new Walmart at S.C. 170 Thursday.
Coastal Retail Services has permits to perform site work to the future location of the neighborhood market, Biondo said. He said because the water table under the ground is so close to the surface, which is a common issue when building near the coast, they will have to raise the site about six feet before placing utilities there.
“The permits that have not been issued are for the building itself,” he said. “But the permits for the site work are in our hands.”
Biondo said Walmart typically doesn’t apply for building permits until site work is completed. Once the developer elevates the site, which will take around 70 to 90 days, he said the retailer would apply to build its store.
“Building the actual Walmart itself, that takes about nine months,” he said.