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Christopher Bjorke, Grand Forks Herald , Published July 17 2012

Second Grand Forks Walmart proposed

GRAND FORKS - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is planning a second Walmart Supercenter store here, west of the city on Gateway Drive, according to documents filed Tuesday with the city.

MFRA, a Plymouth, Minn., engineering company working for company, submitted a site plan for a 181,378-square-foot store on 19 acres of open land at Gateway and North 58th Street with the Grand Forks Planning and Zoning Department.

Senior Planner Ryan Brooks said requests for zoning changes, land annexation, plats and other items would go before the Planning and Zoning Commission for preliminary consideration in August.

“There are still some hoops. It’s not a done deal,” he said.

However, the plans would be a major project for a part of the city that has been largely passed over by retail development.

“Hopefully this will push some business to the north end,” said Chamber of Commerce President Barry Wilfahrt. “It helps balance the city’s development.”

For years, big-box chains and other retailers have built on the south end, along the 32nd Avenue South corridor, where Wal-Mart Stores already has a Walmart Supercenter and a Sam’s Club.

Wilfahrt also said city officials have tried to improve the appearance of the corridor linking the Grand Forks airport with the city.

“That’s our front door for people who come in through the airport. This should jumpstart that,” he said.

Wilfahrt said the plans also show the development of Grand Forks as a retail destination that is keeping pace with other regional population centers.

“If you look at some of the bigger regional trade centers, they have multiple Walmarts,” he said.

There are two Walmart locations in Fargo along with third in the metro area in Dilworth, Minn. Bismarck has two stores and there are plans for another in nearby Mandan.

According to the site plan, the store would occupy land between Gateway Drive and an extension of 10th Avenue South to be constructed. On the east it would border North 55th Street.

The location is also accessible from Interstate 29 by an interchange at Gateway Drive. That access point would help link the store to the Canadian retail traffic that drives a large part of the area’s retail market.

Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Julie Rygg said a new Walmart would be a draw for Canadian shoppers.

“They typically like those big-box stores,” she said. “Obviously we have the demand for it.”

A change in Canadian tax regulations, effective June 1, raised the value of goods Canadian travelers can bring home with them without paying import duties, a development that area retailers expect will boost their sales.

Wilfahrt said the company’s move is also recognition of the health of the local economy and the economy across the state.

“North Dakota is a good place to do business right now,” he said. “Walmart sees that.”

Sales tax collections for the city of Grand Forks have been strong, with collections reported in February reaching $2.016 million, the second-highest month on record.

Taxable sales in Grand Forks County were also up 12.68 percent from the previous year, from $272.3 million to $306.8 million, according to the Office of the State Tax Commissioner.

A call to a spokeswoman from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was not returned Tuesday afternoon.