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Scarborough welcomes super-sized Wal-Mart

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Scarborough welcomes super-sized Wal-Mart

SCARBOROUGH — The big box just got bigger.

The new Wal-Mart on Gallery Boulevard opened its doors Wednesday morning, leaving the old building it replaces in its formidable shadow.

One man camped outside the doors to be the first shopper in the new store, Alex Serra, Wal-Mart's senior manager of public affairs said. And by 7 a.m. Wednesday, several hundred people were waiting to catch their first glimpse of the store's expansive interior.

Once inside, Wentworth Intermediate School band and chorus members performed and Town Manager Tom Hall and Wal-Mart officials spoke at ceremonial ribbon-cutting.

At 208,000 square feet, the new Wal-Mart is more than twice the size of the store it replaces and carries a complete selection of groceries, tire and express lube service department, in addition to other features Wal-Mart shoppers are accustomed to. While these everything-under-one-roof stores have traditionally been called "Super Centers," Serra said Wal-Mart is moving away from that term, preferring instead just to call them "large."

The store's updated design is the first of its kind to be built in northern New England, according to Serra. The exterior, with its dormers, brick, metal roof and stylistic features that break up the long facade, was influenced by Scarborough Planning Board design standards, Town Planner Dan Bacon said, although Serra said the company's new buildings are moving toward the ramped up design.

The building has 222 skylights that flood the space with natural light, reducing the amount of energy required for lighting by as much as 75 percent. Calling the approach "energy-sensitive, Serra said architects also used LED lighting that is 70 percent more efficient than fluorescent lighting and recycled concrete floors with a special finish that requires no chemical cleaners.

And the bigger store means more jobs – 200 new positions have been added, bringing the total number of employees to 450.

Scarborough Economic Development Corp. Director Harvey Rosenfeld said he remembers when the original Wal-Mart on Payne Road came to town in 1992. That store, the first Wal-Mart in Maine, was a direct result of the town's decision to risk putting infrastructure in that area and one of the town's first uses of tax increment financing to encourage commercial development, he said.

"The development that came afterward provided a tax base for Scarborough and jobs for greater Portland, so it really met the town's expectations," Rosenfeld said.

The new store did not come easily. First approved in June 2005, it was originally scheduled to open more than a year ago.

According to Town Engineer James Wendel, the high concentrations of clay in the ground under the building continued to settle after being preloaded with fill. Under normal circumstances, settling of a total of 3 to 6 inches would take place withing three months. But the ground took more than a year to settle more than 3 feet. Construction finally began last summer.

"I'm glad that the project is open," Bacon said. "It's been a long haul."

When the Planning Board approved the new store, it placed conditions on the existing building's future. Now that it's closed, all signs must be removed within the next seven days and access to the parking lot must be blocked, Bacon said. The company is required to come back to the Planning board within 18 months of vacancy to report on its plans, he said.

With the opening of the new store, expectations are high that it will attract more business to the Scarborough Gallery development.

"The confidence they have in the market is very positive and we hope they'll do well," Rosenfeld said.

The new store will be open from 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.

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