Despite community objections, Walmart is moving forward on plans for a new supercenter at the Shops of Midtown Miami.
The retailer on Thursday filed a “Class II Special Permit Application” seeking approval from the city of Miami for the store at 3055 N. Miami Avenue. The 184,000-square-foot store, which would be located on Midtown Miami’s southern block, would include a full-service grocery, garden center, pharmacy and vision center.
Pending city approval, construction would begin late next year with a store opening planned for late 2014 at the earliest. The store is projected to create about 400 construction jobs and 350 permanent retail jobs.
The design is a world away from Walmart’s old trademark battleship grey box. The beige and brown facade would have a plethora of windows with awnings and varied elevations. The store would sit on the ground floor with a two-level parking garage above including about 550 spaces. The street front would include 10,500 square feet of small retailers. Customers would enter Walmart at the corner of Midtown Boulevard and Northeast 31st Street.
“The design is very much a reflection of what currently exists at Midtown,” said Steve Restivo, senior director of community affairs for Walmart. “We’ve engaged the residents to learn about the needs of this community and we’ve listened. We think our store can serve a real need in the city in terms of offering jobs and affordable food.”
But it’s still not enough to satisfy Grant Stern, a community activist who has voiced opposition to the Midtown Walmart. He was critical of the big-box design and the lack of green space.
“It’s a terrible design that would bring a horrific amount of traffic to the neighborhood,” Stern said. “It’s everything we didn’t want.”
Walmart first submitted a copy of the plans to the city zoning department last month. Zoning Administrator Barnaby Min said his department gave the project the green light on Wednesday after ensuring it complied with the Miami 21 Zoning Code.
City planners now have 30 days to review the plans and make any revisions. They can issue a permit once the window comes to an end.
Because Walmart sought an administrative permit, the plans don’t need to go before the Miami City Commission, said Luciana Gonzalez, assistant to the Miami planning director. But the adjacent property owners and other community members can raise objections to the city Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board. Further appeals would be directed to the commission.
Stern said he and others planned to continue the fight against the Midtown store.
“Just because they submitted an application does not mean that this project is inevitable,” he said. “The public still has a right to input.”
Walmart argues that the demand for the store is already there, as Miami residents spent more than $85 million at Walmart last year. Walmart already employs 400 Miami residents.