Walmart has a sizeable retail footprint in the Killeen area — and that footprint is about to get even bigger.
The Killeen City Council last week approved a rezoning request from a Houston-area developer that will bring a second Walmart Supercenter to Killeen. The proposed store will be part of a 431,000-square-foot complex called Killeen Town Center, though its location at Stan Schlueter Loop and Bunny Trail is nowhere near the center of town.
However, the part of town where the development will be built is in need of a nearby grocery store — and the new full-service Walmart will help to fill that need.
The addition of a second superstore in Killeen will bring to seven the number of Walmarts between Lampasas and Belton. With the recent opening of Sam’s Club in Harker Heights and the planned Walmart grocery store across from Harker Heights High School, area residents soon will have the opportunity to shop at nine Walmart-affiliated retail establishments within a 45-mile span.
As with the Walmart grocery in Harker Heights, the proposed Killeen Walmart will be the anchor of a larger complex. When completed, the Killeen Town Center also is expected to feature five smaller anchors of about 40,000 square feet each and half a dozen out parcels. When the development is fully built out and occupied, projections call for annual taxable sales of $125 million — a significant boost to the local economy.
The project will have a significant impact on the area’s employment situation as well, with the developer agreeing to create a minimum of 500 new full-time jobs in the first year and maintain that number over the term of its agreement with the city. Nearly 800 jobs are projected to be created over the first five years of the development’s operations. Many of those jobs will be tied to Walmart.
Erica Jones, a Walmart spokeswoman, offered figures that illustrate the magnitude of the chain’s employment impact in the area. She noted that the Walmarts in Killeen, Harker Heights and Copperas Cove, along with the Sam’s Club, employ 1,600 associates, the majority of whom are full time.
Jones said the proposed Killeen store would employ about 300 associates, and the planned Walmart grocery store in Harker Heights would have about 95.
That’s a total of about 2,000 jobs in the Copperas Cove-Killeen-Harker Heights community, making Walmart one of the area’s largest employers.
For the past decade, residents in the fast-growing southwest portion of Killeen have been underserved by retail grocery stores.
In May 2002, the 50,000-square-foot Albertson’s store at Fort Hood Street and Central Texas Expressway closed its doors as part of a corporate restructuring.
The following month, the Winn-Dixie store in the 440 Plaza closed for business, as the chain shuttered its 71 Texas stores.
In June 2003, H-E-B opened a new store on Trimmier Road in Killeen, but subsequently closed its store adjacent Kmart in the Wendland Plaza.
As a result, residents in the western portion of the city were forced to drive several miles to shop at the Trimmier H-E-B or the Walmart on Lowes Boulevard.
Over the past 10 years, Killeen has continued to expand southwestward — and the creation of the state veterans cemetery, a new regional airport and the new Texas A&M University-Central Texas campus have only accelerated the process.
It is only logical that a retailer would recognize the untapped market and move in — which is what Walmart apparently did, after lengthy negotiations with city officials.
Undoubtedly, there are those who would like the city to attract another grocery chain besides H-E-B or Walmart, if only to provide some variety.
Still, the two prominent chains consistently offer a wide selection of products and competitive prices, so residents shouldn’t complain too much.
In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if H-E-B follows Walmart’s lead and builds a new store in the same area.
After all, the Texas grocery chain has its own sizeable footprint to maintain.