Late Tuesday, the City Council to OK'd the 76,000-square-foot expansion that would turn our Wal-Mart into a supercenter.
My impression: A mixed bag for Tracy.
The consistent support for the propsed Wal-Mart grocery softened my initial position that allowing the expansion was nothing but bad news. Many consumers want cheaper food, and retailers in the Grant Line Road corridor see an improved Wal-Mart as a magnet for shoppers.
These are good things.
But many of my original concerns remain unanswered.
Wal-Mart is likely to drive at least one exisiting grocery store out of business. Which is fine, it being the free market and all. And I won't shed a tear over stiffer competition for SaveMart, which has the lion's share of Tracy's grocery market.
But what happens to a shopping center that has its commerical anchor shut down as a result of that competition? It's left with a empty hulk of a hard-to-fill building that will surely drag down the smaller businesses that used to bank on the grocery's drawing power.
That will not be a happy story to report.
Also, remember that in the same corner of town to Wal-Mart is the to-be-built WinCo, already given approval. Add Costco to the mix, and that's three discount grocers within 1½ miles of one another, drawing plenty of traffic away from the city center.
Ah, yes — the traffic. The Grant Line Road corridor is already overmatched at times, especially where Grant Line hits Byron Road just west of town. If you think the area's busy now, just wait until the WinCo and new Wal-Mart are up and running.
The bright side of this vote is that people feel like City Hall understands their need for cheaper goods and more businesses in town.
The dark side is that an economic boom on Grant Line Road might be a bust on Tracy Boulevard.