Wal-Mart may be an anchor store for planned development at Exit 47

Feb 20, 2008 Full story: Http 148

“They are likely negotiating with prospective tenants and cannot reveal that information until commitments are made”

It appears Wal-Mart may be an anchor store for a $40 million commercial development on the south side of Interstate 81's Exit 47, but officials remain mum on exact plans for the site. via Http

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bob

Knoxville, TN

#1 Feb 21, 2008
hopefully
fed-up

Knoxville, TN

#2 Mar 4, 2008
what eles is exit 47 close to? that would be a good place i guess
oh gee

Knoxville, TN

#3 Mar 23, 2008
well it would be good if they did some development there, marion needs more jobs and revenue. But, I am sure that the town counsel will get in the way. they always do.
get real

Knoxville, TN

#4 Mar 26, 2008
wonder what all it will have,or if there will be stores around it? it would be nice if we got goodies or old navy.
The Man

United States

#5 Mar 27, 2008
WAL-MART IS SATAN!!! YOU WILL GO TO HELL!!!
get real

Knoxville, TN

#6 Mar 27, 2008
The Man wrote:
WAL-MART IS SATAN!!! YOU WILL GO TO HELL!!!
you are full of it.ha! you can't be serious. you make me laugh. you ain't right in the head.
Ken H

Charlottesville, VA

#7 Apr 5, 2008
To Abingdon's "Oh Gee" -- perhaps you are referring to your own council and their opposition to the Exit 19 Walmart development. The Exit 47 development is in the COUNTY, and unless the property owners and Smyth County choose to ask for a boundary adjustment, our town council isn't even in the picture.

I can speak with some authority that the Marion Town Council is proactively working with the county and developer to make the most of this, and a couple of other, great opportunities.

There is a pocket of opposition to the development, mainly in the form of people who believe that WalMart will be forced to stay in their present location if the new development doesn't work out. Not true - they need lots more room for their grocery expansion. So either way, Marion is losing their existing WalMart. It's just when and where.

Current plans include WalMart and a "home improvement" anchors, plus several national/regional chain stores, three new "mid-to-upper level chain restaurants", and three fast food restaurants. There is more acreage adjacent that could be optioned and developed in the future.(I tried to plant the seed for a movie theater, but no dice - the industry won't come with less than twelve screens, and the population and demographics won't support that size with Wytheville-Abingdon-Bristol so close. A private entity, like in Abingdon, might come along, but the current developer has no plans for one).

I'm glad to see the majority of the comments are positive. Well, except the Satan part.
bob

Clinton, TN

#8 Apr 5, 2008
Im glad at least somebody is working towards this. I think a theater would be great, for the young people who would otherwise have to drive to wytheville or abingdon. I miss the one in Chilhowie. Marion also needs a Lowes, or some home improvement store, besides berrys.
heebee geebee

Knoxville, TN

#9 Apr 7, 2008
walmart had a lowes a long time ago, but it closed down, they need to put one in town. Marion needs to educate itself(i.e. the citizens) Or it will be lost in the abyss of unemployment. That's why I left, there are no opportunities for educated people, only factories and they are dwindling away. Of course this is not to mention the town council standing in the way of development.
oh gee

Knoxville, TN

#10 Apr 7, 2008
well in the small towns the council is always causing trouble for developers. Old money, Old fogies, afraid they may lose something. But they are right they are losing the youth who have to move away to get where they want to go in their career
Ken H

Charlottesville, VA

#11 Apr 8, 2008
Obviously, people DO need "educated". The old Lowe's was out on Bear Creek, in the COUNTY, not the town, and the antiquated layout, terrible location, and other business decisions led to the company shuttering that store over a decade ago -nothing to do with Marion Town Council. Marion's council epitomizes neither "old money" nor "old fogies", but does reflect that the overwhelming majority of the voting populace is both, IMHO. I you want a REAL education in local politics, go to your voting precints on election day in May and observe. Rarely will you see people under the age of 50 show up. Or attend one of these council meetings for yourself - most likely you'll be alone. We've fostered a generation (or two) of people who would much rather complain than take an active role, yet they love to cast aspersions and blame things on the very people who they allow to be elected.

I can speak first-hand that the Marion Town Council has been anything but trouble for developers. Not giving away the proverbial farm, but providing a streamlined system for cutting red tape, providing significant incentives for development - both in retention and in new investment, even eliminating the sign ordinance that people said limited the town's opportunities near the interstate.

The REAL reasons for lack of growth?
(1) NAFTA. Remember Perot's "giant sucking sound"? It started in Smyth County! LImited manufacturing means limited disposable income, means less shopping/services/restaurant demand.

(2)Topography. Smyth County is much more mountainous, more rocky, and more protected by state and federal land than either Wythe or Washington Counties, and the "low hanging fruit" has been developed. Anything not developed now that is even moderately accessible is either too small for current retail/restaurant standards or is tied up in some of the aforementioned "old money"- not bound by archain laws from Council.

(3) Demographics. Since Smyth County long ago made decisions that limited opportunities (community colleges, highways, etc.), more and more people have migrated out. The ones left just aren't enough to turn the cash registers for many new stores - certainly not Gander Mountain or Coach or even Cracker Barrel. The proposed development at Exit 47 just might open some opportunities for some larger retail/restaurant development simply because of interstate access.

(4) Workforce. Simply put, there are too many people who, for whatever reason, won't work. I've been told by retail owners, car dealers, manufacturing HR gurus - all the same story -- "we just can't get people to show up for work, and if we do, they can't pass a drug screen." Don't get me wrong - there are many good, hard-working people in our region and our county, but new growth means new jobs, and if we can't fill what we already have, how will we fill new ones - even if the development occurs?

And lastly (5) Perceptions. I can't tell you how many times I've heard citizens fuss about "restaurants and retail that barely pay minimum wage" replacing industry. I would love to see industry make a comeback, but it's not. And while most posters here seem to agree that retail and restaurants are important, there is a very vocal group of people who decry that very type of development. Either way, the community can't win. Develop, and you're prostituting your natural environment. Don't develop, and you're an idiot running people out of town.

Make a difference - vote in May, and attend your town council meetings!
oh gee

Knoxville, TN

#12 Apr 8, 2008
good comments mr. heath(ken h), but i have heard that some folks stood in the way of marion getting a cracker barrel which basically ended up in abingdon, and recreational areas for kids
Ken H

Charlottesville, VA

#13 Apr 8, 2008
Cracker Barrel came to town and went around with the Chamber director (then Tom Burkett), passing out free dining coupons everywhere. Then, they supposedly said that too many people knew about their plans and went to Wytheville (the Abingdon store was already open). I suspect that they either found out that people would travel to Abingdon, and like Shoney's has told us, a store in Marion would be too close - considering the demographics - and would weaken their strong stores, or th CB people didn't get enough of the coupons used to warrant them coming to Marion. Too bad. I'm so happy we have a good choice of dining options downtown now (comes with having a fat guy as the downtown director, I guess), and the Japanese restaurant is getting ready to finally do their overhaul and reopen by summer - talked to the owner last weekend. The development of restaurants and retail at 47, IMHO, can help us by making Marion a smaller version of exit 7, where there are so many options that it becomes a regional draw. And some of that will trickle down to Main Street. And it all helps build the tax base, which means more we can offer, which draws more development and growth. We're at a crossroads, my friend, and either we grow or we wither. And the momentum is finally on our side, I hope!

As for a recreational area for kids, I agree that we need to do something, other than give them the Walmart parking lot and the sno-shack (woops - that one closed last year). The trouble I've had is getting the kids interested in helping find a solution - we all agree there is a problem, but we old pharts have NO CLUE as to what excites and engages kids, so it's easy to ignore them. Plus, to some, it's easier to ignore those who don't vote - not by plan, but because the voters do participate in the process. The school system no longer teaches local government or civics - part of the SOLs. I'm working with the school leaders here to start a Junior Council, where kids would actually participate in the process, learn how to take over for us, and even work on a project or two - like a teen club or whatever they come up with. It's moving along, and I hope to kick it off this Summer.

BTW, the County seems to have cancelled Youth Government Day as a "waste of time". The Town Council voted last night to do whatever we could with the kids to continue it. It's so important for a number of reasons. The Town is having a hard time finding people interested in learning about water treatment and sewer treatment - not the most exciting careers, but good paying, solid jobs with a future about anywhere you would go.
Ken H

Charlottesville, VA

#14 Apr 12, 2008
Update - seems the County has "reinstated" Youth Government Day, at the urging of the Town, Constitutional officers, and the Board of Supervisors. No date has been set, but at least we're giving the kids a taste of how local government works - albeit this year, a little embarassing to a few!
bob

Clinton, TN

#15 Apr 13, 2008
glad to see some progress
Lauren D

Oxford, NC

#16 Apr 14, 2008
I find it sad that local officials like Mr. Heath would aspire to make Marion "a smaller version of exit 7." There has to be another way to bring economic development and progress to the area, aside from becoming another soul-less, strip mall filled eyesore along I-81. It seems to me that encouraging this type of development undermines all of the progress that has been made with Marion's downtown revitalization. Although from reading this board, I see that "progress" is a highly subjective term.
bubba

Clinton, TN

#17 Apr 14, 2008
we need some progress
get real

Knoxville, TN

#18 Apr 14, 2008
it is nice to know atleast their will finally be so good shopping places.hopefully there will be a crafting store like(micheals arts and crafts store)because crafters in our area have to go to johnson city to get their crafting supplies.
Ken H

Charlottesville, VA

#19 Apr 15, 2008
Lauren

I totally agree that "Progress" is a subjective term. I fully believe that retail and restaurant growth near the interstate can be beneficial to the downtown program we've worked so hard to build. Because of our downtown's distance from tne interstate, we are a destination instead of an impulse. Marion is landlocked, so the fact that Interstate 81 bisects our town and offers three exits has offered only a fraction of the economic benefit that the "big road" had provided our neighboring communities of Wytheville and even Abingdon.

Marion HAS a WalMart - that die was cast a generation ago. The intent of the company is to close the existing one, whether or not they find a nearby suitable location. That's a given - the model for WalMart has changed so drastically that the existing store will not accomdate their needs, so Marion is losing the WalMart (and most likely some of the neighboring stores) in as little as two years. My role in this is not to champion "big box" development as our only means of growth, but to help direct our community to take advantage of this opportunity to keep those shopping opportunities from going outside of Marion, outside of Smyth County, which would continue the trend of leakage and outmigration for our citizens. Notice the post from "Get Real" - Smyth Countains have to travel to Johnson City to shop for craft items. And with gas reaching into the stratosphere, I want to bring those types of opportunities to Marion instead of taking the NIMBY approach.

There must be a balance between perserving the past and embracing the future. Because of the tremendous competition for shopping and dining and entertainment dollars, Marion must find that balance to keep from always struggling to survive. And if WalMart and the tenants from the Smyth Valley Center move to Rural Retreat, our downtown will suffer as those dining/shopping/tax revenues leave Marion with the short end of the stick, as we so often have been handed.

In an ideal world, there would be entrepreneurs who would open that craft store in the vacant space beside Baja Cafe in the old Ben Franklin, restaurants would grow and thrive, someone would open a mens store and an outdoor outfitter shop, etc., and we'd have complete occupancy. But it's a matter of economics and critical mass. Marion, and Smyth County, have a limited number of people and households that spend a limited number of dollars on any one thing, and those numbers generally don't support much more growth that we've seen over the past decade. By encouraging this development that is along the interstate and is also removed from downtown by at least three miles, and at the same time partnering with the developer to help maximize the exposure for our historic downtown at the new development, my plan is to work to offer that balance. The new center would bring people off the interstate, and if we can be effective promoting our downtown as the quaint, beautiful historic place it is, then I believe we can increase our numbers downtown and make more of that small entrepreneur development happen.

If Marion didn't have a WalMart already, then I would agree that the big box development would completely change our culture, and maybe not for the better, but that bell can't be unrung. I can only hope to find a way to make the music a little prettier for us all.

BTW, if you're interested in opening a shop here, I'd love to talk with you!
get real

Knoxville, TN

#20 Apr 15, 2008
to ken h; i hope as well as alot of people in this area that some good things happen,as you know the only place that anyone in this area can really afford to shop is walmart.on the streets you hear people saying they wished they didn't have to travel so far to get what they want or need. if we are lucky enough to see this progress alot of people would love a lowes,goodies,old navy,micheals craft and arts supply store.ihave heard people complain to get a good meal they had to go to abingdon or wythville,they go to chilis cracker barrel,buger king,logans,shoneys,out back and ihop.this is reveune smyth co. could have if somethig isn't done soon all of the young people are going to move on to bigger places and better things.i really hope it dosen't but i have heard it from alot of the young ones.

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