FORSYTH COUNTY -- A new Walmart Supercenter in north Forsyth took a step toward reality this week.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Friday for the new store on the north side of Browns Bridge Road (Hwy. 369) just west of Ga. 400. The store is tentatively scheduled to open in June 2017.
“I think today really does give a great example of partnering with business, partnering with government and seeing the good that comes out of it and how we can grow and how we can develop,” said Glen Wilkins, director of public affairs and government relations for Walmart.
The property was originally zoned for commercial development by county commissioners in 2003 – prior to the terms of all current commissioners – and Walmart originally became involved around 2007.
Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, who represents District 4 in north Forsyth, said the land was drawn in a different district at the time of approval and that while the area will grow, it should try to preserve its roots.
“The area is changing, but I hope that we can still hold on to the things that are so precious to me, and that’s the community that cares about each other, that’s drawn together, that has that community spirit that we don’t forget what got us here, we don’t lose are humbleness along the way,” she said.
According to the company, the store will be nearly 187,000 square feet and will include garden and auto centers.
The development will include 759 parking spaces, out parcels for other businesses and an eight-dispenser fuel station.
Once opened, the store is expected to create about 300 full and part-time jobs. The average wage for a full-time, hourly staff member will be $13.90 per hour.
More than 800 shrubs and 200 trees will be planted on the site, and “aesthetically appealing” landscaping will be near the front entrance.
Other than the store, the surrounding area and roads have several upcoming improvements – most notably the widening of Hwy. 369 to a four-lane road and the addition of a new interchange on Ga. 400, which will become Exit 18.
Improvements to the road will feature a new traffic light at the entrance of the store, including a deceleration lane turning right onto the property for motorists coming from 400 and a left turn lane for those coming from Dahlonega Highway. A separate “right-in-only” entrance will also be included.
There are also plans for a new sidewalk along Browns Bridge Road.
Browns Bridge Road is undergoing design for a widening project that will extend from Keith Bridge Road (Hwy. 306) to Dahlonega Highway (Hwy. 9). Mills said the county is done with its design and is awaiting approval from the Georgia Department of Transportation.
She said obtaining right of way for the widening will take about a year.
Several local and company officials were present for the ceremony, including Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce President/CEO James McCoy, Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt, North Forsyth High School Principal Jeff Cheney and Bert Durand, of the North Forsyth 400 Rotary Club.
During the ceremony, Walmart donated $25,000 to benefit North Forsyth High School’s greenhouses and farm to table program.
“We have three greenhouses on our property… They need tremendous amounts of maintenance and update for the things that we want to do,” Cheney said. “We’re interested in creating a farmers market that we would operate out of the school. I know we are very interested in helping some of the food banks.”
The North Forsyth 400 Rotary Club also donated $2,500 to the school for the project.