ATLANTA — After of months of speculation, Walmart announced plans for two of its metro Atlanta locations on Monday evening.
Walmart released a statement and said after reviewing all factors, it would reopen its Vine City location and permanently close its Howell Mill Road store.
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“After a thorough review of all factors related to our Vine City and Howell Mill Road stores, we have made the decision to reopen our Vine City location as a Walmart Neighborhood Market and permanently close our Howell Mill Road location. Unfortunately, a variety of economic headwinds existed at both stores before they were closed due to arson,” said Walmart.
The Walmart on Howell Mill was set on fire in December. Firefighters said someone intentionally set a fire in the men’s clothing section. The store was then temporarily closed. But on Monday, Walmart said they decided to permanently close its Howell Mill store.
The Vine City Walmart was also set on fire back in December, just days apart from the Howell Mill fire, which caused the store to close temporarily.
Neighborhood residents who shop at the Vine City location on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive expressed their concern for the possible long-term closure of their store.
“Losing this store will be a huge loss to the community,” Atlanta City Councilman Byron Amos said.
The store opened in January 2013. Before it opened, those living in the area said they would drive miles to shop for their families.
Residents worried that the store closure would take a toll on jobs, food access, community and opportunities, but now, they don’t have to worry since Walmart announced its decision to reopen the store.
Vine City Civic Association Chair John H. Lewis told Channel 2 Action News that this was the news they were hoping for.
“This is the news that we were hoping for - the thousands of residents who have been customers of the Wal-Mart, including the elderly long-term residents and college students who have depended on this Wal-Mart to buy their groceries and medicines- and people who needed a place within walking distance to go to - I’m delighted for them. Otherwise, we would have re-created another food desert in our city,” said Lewis. “I’m thankful for the team that worked together to make this happen, from the Mayor and our city Councilman Byron Amos and other community leaders to the hundreds of residents here in the historic Westside neighborhoods who worked together to make it happen.”
Walmart said in its statement that the Howell Mill location does not have the ability to repurpose like Vine City does.
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“Unlike Vine City, Walmart does not have the ability to repurpose the Howell Mill Road location due to site restrictions. We will work with Mayor Dickens and his office to find a new use or business for the site,” said Walmart.
Walmart thanked the mayor and city councilman for their help in making the reopening of the Vine City Walmart happen.
“Thanks to Mayor Andre Dickens and City Councilman Byron Amos, we will reopen the Vine City store as a Walmart Neighborhood Market to help meet the grocery and pharmacy needs of the community. This will be our focus going forward,” said Walmart.
Mayor Andre Dickens released a statement following the announcement:
“Food and nutrition security for Atlanta families is a moral right for our communities. The intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive & Joseph E. Lowery Blvd is a nexus of multiple NW and SW Atlanta communities with seniors, children, students and thousands of individuals and households who already lack accessible options for fresh, affordable food.
I and my team engaged Walmart directly to ensure this store would reopen. Thank you to Councilmember Byron Amos, my Chief of Staff Odie Donald II and everyone involved to ensure Vine City and the surrounding community have one added layer of food security they deserve while we continue to build a more resilient and sustainable Atlanta.
The City will continue our work with Walmart and community stakeholders on the appropriate use of the Howell Mill store site and job placement for the affected employees.
We continue the City’s goal of ensuring all residents have fresh, affordable food within a half mile of their homes.”— Mayor Andre Dickens statement
Atlanta City Council Member Byron Amos also released a statement on the reopening of the Vine City Walmart:
“After working with Walmart’s corporate leadership, I can announce that the Walmart store located in Vine City will remain open. The current configuration of the superstore concept that occupies the space will be converted into the neighborhood market concept. The time frame for the completion of the remodel has yet to be determined. For weeks, the community has stood together in lockstep with a focus on making the entire MLK corridor safer and more accessible. With this confirmation, we can continue the years of dedication and hard work to continue to make that goal a reality.”— Atlanta City Council Member Byron Amos statement
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