Wal-Mart coming to Wilkins?

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Wal-Mart is looking into building a supercenter at the site of the Sears store in Penn Center East in Wilkins.

The Sears store lost its lease with Penn Center East and will be torn down, according to Wilkins manager Rebecca Bradley. It is expected to close in mid- to late January, Sears spokesman Chris Brathwaite said.

If Wilkins and the state Department of Transportation approve Wal-Mart's plans, company officials hope to open the supercenter in late 2014, Ms. Bradley said. In the past, Walmart supercenters have contained grocery stores, pharmacies and sometimes banks and hair salons in addition to other services and merchandise. If it is built, the new supercenter would contain just under 125,000 square feet, she said.

The prospect of a supercenter has raised some concerns about traffic and safety.

Ms. Bradley stressed that plans for the Wal-Mart are only in the preliminary stages. She said Wal-Mart hasn't submitted any plans to the township yet, but she expects the company to do so before the end of the year.

Ms. Bradley met last week with representatives from Trans Associates, the company that will do a traffic study for Wal-Mart, and from Civil Environmental Consultants of Pittsburgh, the firm that will do the land development plan for the company.

Although they submitted an application for the Sept. 25 meeting, , the engineers working for Wal-Mart have not yet submitted a traffic study to PennDOT, Ms. Bradley said.

During the meeting with township officials, the engineers discussed current traffic conditions at Penn Center East on Route 22 and whether additional traffic signals and turning lanes would be needed if Wal-Mart builds there, she said.

They discussed widening Kingston Drive and adding a left-turn lane on Kingston onto Route 22, she said.

Sylvia Martinelli, president of the board of commissioners, said she is worried about traffic on Kingston, Sunset and Dunbar drives if motorists use those roads to get to the new store.

It is already difficult for residents trying to get out of their driveways on holiday weekends because of the flow of shoppers coming along Kingston, she said.

She also is concerned that other businesses in the Penn Center area, including a pharmacy, two opticians and a Shop 'n Save, will be driven out of business by Wal-Mart.

Commissioner Michelle Criner said she, too, is concerned about the impact of the supercenter on the businesses, but she said her primary concern is the safety of township residents in light of the increased traffic generated by a supercenter.

Commissioner Michael Boyd said he couldn't comment on Wal-Mart's plans because he hasn't seen any details yet but he thinks it is important that commerce and industry in the township benefit all residents.

He is an advocate for bicyclists in the eastern suburbs and believes increased traffic on Old William Penn Highway, generated by the supercenter, could affect cyclists using that road to get into Pittsburgh.

A careful and deliberate approach by the township planning commission benefited the community when the site of a former movie theater across Route 22 from Penn Center East was redeveloped into a Sheetz convenience store, hotel, restaurant and shops, he said.

Mr. Brathwaite said about 135 employees, most of them part time, currently work at the Sears store and they would be able to apply for openings at other Sears and Kmart stores.

He said Tuesday that liquidation sales at the Sears store will begin in early November.

neigh_east

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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