Walmart project in holding pattern

Published 7:00 am Saturday, January 23, 2016

Earlier this week news broke about Walmart closing numerous stores nationwide, several in Mississippi included.

While the Supercenter in Picayune was not listed as one of the stores closing, officials with the city of Picayune and the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors recently approved a Tax Increment Financing plan to assist in the construction of infrastructure that would entice Walmart to build a Neighborhood Market in Picayune. 

City Operations Director Harvey Miller said, from his under standing, the project to build a Neighborhood Market in Picayune has not been cancelled, but has been put on hold for now. If for some reason the major retailer cancelled the project, then there would be no impact to the city.

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Laurence Leyens with Urban Development Toolbox said the types of stores slated to be closed are not the same as what was planned for construction in Picayune. However, while cancellation of the project would not affect city and county leaders and taxpayers, Leyens said it would put landowner Andy Cooper in a bad place.

However, Walmart is not one to rush into a project and typically waits until everything is finalized to notify the land owner and local officials that everything is finalized and construction of a new location is about to begin, Leyens said.

“I don’t believe it’s a dead deal by any means,” Leyens said. “But who knows what Walmart thinks.”

Another cause of concern is Highland Commons Parkway, the road connecting Highway 43 North with U.S. 11. Leyens said it was recently closed due to liability concerns, since currently the closed portion belongs to a private landowner. Leyens said he has suggested the option of turning over the road to the city so it could be completed with tax dollars.

As for a contingency plan in case Walmart does cancel construction of the Neighborhood Market, Leyens suggests the landowner attempt to partner with a retail developer who could capitalize on the market viability Cooper’s proposed development provides. 

According to presentations made years ago at council meetings, Cooper’s proposed development will involve construction of retail and residential areas around the recently constructed Highland Community Hospital off of Highland Parkway, creating a walkable community.