LANSING | Village officials Wednesday expressed concerns about parking and access at a Torrence Avenue property where Walmart wants to build a superstore. But local officials said they could put concerns aside if it means attracting the retailer to a long-vacant site.
Walmart officials on Wednesday presented plans for a store that would include a full-scale supermarket, home goods, interior decoration items, a liquor department, a garden center and outdoor seasonal items.
Corporate officials told the village’s Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals they want to build the new complex on the site of a former Sam’s Club warehouse store at 17555 Torrence Ave.
They want to raze the structure that has sat empty since 2009, along with some other storefronts on the property, to make room for a 169,000-square-foot building. Officials want construction to begin this spring, with the store to open in early 2014.
Zoning board members had no problem with the structure. What concerned them was parking, and whether Walmart’s building would dominate the site to the degree that other existing businesses nearby (a Loubie’s Pancake House and a Sprint cellphone store) would be squeezed out.
Village engineer Jeff Pintar tried offering an alternate parking configuration that would make it clear some of the spaces are intended for those smaller businesses. But consultant Bernessa McQueen said that would create parking spaces unusable by Walmart customers.
Scott Carr, with Inland Commercial Property Management that owns the site, said they want the village to back Walmart. “We feel without Walmart, the future of this center is nonexistent,” he said.
Zoning Commissioner Paul Nowicki was sympathetic, saying, “We have to do what is right” to attract a business to the location.
Also bothering zoning board members was the main entrance to the site at 176th Street and Torrence Avenue. Several officials said it was too small for the large site and likely would create situations where traffic would be backed up out onto Torrence Avenue.
“Let’s be honest, when this was a Sam’s Club, it was an absolute disaster to get into and out of,” Pintar said.
But McQueen said any attempt to alter the entrance would involve Illinois Department of Transportation approval, which could delay the store’s opening by a full year.
“No matter what Lansing decides to do (with the site), we’re going to have parking issues,” Commissioner Cathy Hallow said. “I’d rather have that problem than no problem” because Walmart would have chosen to locate elsewhere.