Walmart moved into the Sioux Falls Convention Center Thursday night. The retailer plans to build two new stores in the city, the first at 60th Street North and Marion Road, the other at 85th Street South and Minnesota Avenue.
Store officials were on hand to talk about both projects, but judging by the crowds, few people are concerned with the north-side store proposal, instead they focused on the Minnesota Avenue location.
“A lot of time whenever we propose a site there's a fear of the unknown,” said Walmart Public Affairs and Government Relations director Ryan Irsik said.
Walmart representatives took questions from neighbors for the first time since the retailer announced its Sioux Falls expansion plans.
The south-side store already has opposition.
“Space it far from residences,” said Dana Palmer, “Space it far from schools and let the community grow around it. Don't let the community be there first and then plop an area right in the middle of it.”
Palmer is one in a growing group against the development proposal at 85th and Minnesota, saying it's too close to schools, arguing, she says, not against Walmart, but against all area big box development.
“All these children walk and ride their bikes to school. That's right in the area of where the proposed retail and commercial development is,” Palmer said.
But that's not the argument for everyone.
Tasha Gallegos came to tell Walmart and city officials she wants the retailer to look elsewhere.
“I'm not saying close Walmart. I'm saying we don't need two more. Even if they were doing one more I probably wouldn't have gone to great lengths to voice my concern,” Gallegos said.
Walmart says the two new stores will put Sioux Falls on pace with other similarly sized cities in the region. And the additions will clear congestion at the two current Sioux Falls stores.
“It just provides a better shopping experience for them because they don't have to travel as far to get to our store,” Irsik said.
The two stores are scheduled to open in late 2014. The property for the south-side store is not part of the city yet. The annexation process is ongoing, which means it's still very early in a long battle for those against the major commercial development at 85th and Minnesota.