The proposed new downtown Super Wal-Mart has drawn criticism from patrons of Club LeConte, the prestigious downtown hangout of local business leaders. Wal-Mart plans to move into the building recently vacated by Union Planters, who are in no way affiliated with the peanut company, and erect a giant Wal-Mart sign on top of the building. The sign will block Club LeConte’s view of the Baptist Hospital complex across the river.
“Most of the time it’s so foggy up here you can’t even see that building, but when the fog lifts, we sure don’t want to see a Wal-Mart sign,” explained anti-sign activist and LeConte patron Rudolpho Cash. “Even if it IS a SUPER Wal-Mart, that isn’t the point. I mean, downtown needs some kind of shopping, but why do I have to see that out the window while I eat my omelette?”
Other people who happened to be downtown are less upset about it. “I hear they plan on having a lawn and garden center on the top floor,” exclaimed one random passerby on Gay Street. Another said, “What? I pass three Super Wal-Marts on my way down here. Why can’t they build a giant Big Lots instead? But on the bright side, I’ll be able to do my Christmas shopping on my lunch breaks now.”
Downtown redevelopment activists are also excited about the project and hope it will draw more people to live, work, and shop for great bargains in the downtown area.
Both major candidates for mayor are rumored to be supportive of the Wal-Mart. Rogero hopes the discount store will bring a sense of unity, togetherness, and a place for her to shop downtown. Haslam is rumored to be upset he failed to purchase the building last year when he had a chance, and is pleased they chose a building that nobody is trying to slap a historical overlay on.
The shape of the building will have to be slightly altered, and the plan is to make it a little more box-like in appearance, with red and white trim up and down the sides. The bottom two floors will be dedicated to groceries and produce, while the remaining floors will house the rest of Wal-Mart’s products, such as sporting goods, auto parts, clothing, and personal hygiene products. The facility will contain the only express lube in the downtown area.
Final approval of the project is expected next week, with the City of Knoxville funding about 68% of the building’s structural changes. Construction may begin within three or four months.