New Walmart on Pacific Street?

Store officials pull permits to convert old Albertsons to Neighborhood Market
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald correspondent
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News of a possible new Walmart near downtown has sparked interest and some concern from neighboring residents and business owners.

Walmart recent opened two grocery-only Neighborhood Markets in Granite Bay and Lincoln. Now it appears it have its sights on Rocklin’s empty grocery pad next to the Kmart at 5609 Pacific St.

“I think it’s great,” said Marietta Swaney, a senior citizen who lives in the neighborhood. “If it comes to the point where we can’t drive, we’ll have some-place to walk to. We hated it when Albertsons left.”

Instead of a new Walmart Supercenter, like the one planned for Sierra College Boulevard and Interstate 80, the vacant and blighted former Albertsons will be remodeled to accommodate the new Walmart Neighborhood Market. These smaller stores are meant to attract shoppers with easier parking, less crowded aisles and quicker checkout, according to Walmart.

Mayor Brett Storey said the plan is “fantastic.”

“I am always thrilled when a business pulls a permit to be in Rocklin,” Storey said. “I believe that a Walmart store would be a good fit for the old Albertsons building.”

City Council member Scott Yuill said the store could help spur downtown development.

“Good, financially solid businesses in and around the downtown area are precisely what’s needed to improve the beleaguered commercial climate in the neighborhood,” Yuill said. “New customers drawn to this grocer will improve foot traffic and visibility to surrounding merchants.”

Neighboring small business owner Paul Rose, who operates Rocklin Florist on the corner, disagrees. He said it will force some businesses to close.

“I hate the idea,” he said. “How many Walmarts do we need? It’s going to drive two small local markets out of business and it’s probably going to kill whatever decent jobs are left in Safeway and Bel Air.”

Still other neighbors within walking distance feel it will bring riffraff to their neighborhood and won’t help blight.

“I don’t like it,” said longtime Rocklin resident Art Enriquez. “They usually don’t bring the right kind of crowd. The quality of life is what I was looking for in Rocklin.”

Storey downplayed the perceived controversy that has affected stores in other communities like Auburn.

“Opposition to a Walmart usually has to do with a perceived issue with non-union labor and benefits rather than the store itself. In these days of a still-down economy, I believe that people are glad to have good-paying jobs and lower-priced goods to purchase.”

Storey said residents can’t discriminate against businesses if they want the city to remain strong and safe.

“The majority of citizens and business people that I talk with are in favor of bringing more business of all types to Rocklin,” Storey said.

The Walmart Neighborhood Market in Granite Bay at Sierra College and Douglas boulevards took nine months to complete and employs about 60 workers, according to Walmart. A Lincoln location is now open on G Street.

Enriquez concedes he’ll probably shop there despite his concerns.

“Just because I don’t like it, it is the future,” he said. “It’s right there I’m going to use it.”

A Walmart spokesperson could not be reached for comment by press time.