PORT RICHEY — Demolition work has signaled the start of a project to build a Walmart Neighborhood Market at Little and Ridge roads.
The smaller Walmart would encompass roughly 42,000 square feet, according to the site plan filed with Pasco County. That’s less than half the space of its big-brother Supercenter stores in Port Richey and the Hudson and Trinity areas.
The Walmart Neighborhood Market will anchor the Ridge Plaza shopping center, on the northwest corner of the Little and Ridge.
To make room, demolition crews made quick work of knocking down the former Eckerd drug store. The Eckerd storefront remained mostly unoccupied ever since Sept. 11, 2004, when the location closed as part of consolidation after the buyout of Eckerd by the CVS chain.
The DialAmerica telemarketing call center also relocated from Ridge Plaza to make room for the Walmart construction. The call center now is listed on the second floor of the SunTrust Bank Regency Square branch at 10220 U.S. 19.
The county had received the preliminary Walmart site plan May 3, 2013.
“It’s been ready for a while,” Beverly Trudell, a Pasco development review technician, said about the site plan Friday.
For whatever reason, Walmart executives obtained the separate demolition permit first and let the site permit sit. Sometimes developers will try to obtain the two permits concurrently.
“They chose to wait and do it this way,” Trudell said about Walmart developers. She expects once the site is cleared, it shouldn’t be long before developers pick up the development permit.
The Neighborhood Market will be the first one that Walmart builds in Pasco County, Trudell said. The closest locations now are in Dunedin and Clearwater. Many of the 35 smaller Walmarts in Florida lie along the east coast.
The new location could boost traffic for Ridge Plaza. The shopping center includes chains such as Dollar Tree, Hobby Lobby, Shapes, and the Sioux City restaurant.
Average traffic counts are 39,000 a day on Little Road and 26,000 along that section of Ridge Road, according to an online brochure from Benderson Development, based in University Park, Fla.
Other demographics include 60,041 residents within three miles, average household income of $45,464 and five-year growth projections of 13 percent.