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SAUGUS

New Walmart proposed for Route 1 site

By Kathy McCabe
Globe Staff / July 21, 2011

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A two-story Walmart store is proposed for Route 1 north, promising new jobs, new tax revenues, and a fix for aged water mains that often burst, forcing the highway to close and hurting businesses along the busy retail corridor.

The 114,244-square-foot store is planned for an 18-acre parcel next to McDonalds, which WS Development of Newton has an option to buy, pending approval of the Walmart project, said Lou Masiello, the project manager.

A mountain of dirt and stone was removed from the land in recent years, creating one of the first big new parcels of land on Route 1 in Saugus in decades.

“A site like this just doesn’t come along that often,’’ said Paul Rupp, the town’s economic development consultant.

Walmart is the first part of a two-phase development planned for the site by WS Development. The firm would build the Walmart building and lease it to back to the Arkansas-based retail giant.

After that, a second 55,0001-square-foot building would be built on the site and leased to another retailer, a restaurant or another commercial tenant.

“We have not yet secured these tenant commitments,’’ Masiello wrote in an e-mail.

The Walmart project is the second retail developoment proposed for the site since 2007. At that time, the planning board approved a site plan review permit for a single 82,518-square-foot building, according to the town’s planning office. But that project was never built.

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing today on a request by WS Development to modify that original site plan review permit.

A traffic plan for the new development is expected to be presented. The hearing will be held at 7:15 p.m. at the Town Hall Annex on Main Street.

The original permit required replacement of a pumping station to clear water from the land and the installation of 1,000 feet of water main in front of the parcel.

Those conditions will remain for WS Development, said Masiello, the project manager.

“We are inheriting those permits, and the modification we requested only accommodates Walmart being inserted into the site plan, meaning it doesn’t affect the infrastructure conditions,’’ Masiello wrote. “ We (and Walmart) will be assuming those obligations at closing.’’

Saugus hopes to leverage that private investment to land a state grant to repair the rest of the crumbling water mains, which often burst under the weight and rumble of the 100,000 or so vehicles traveling the road daily.

“The town is hoping to make a case to the state that because of the investment coming in, we should use that with a grant to resolve the balance of water main line that keeps breaking,’’ Rupp said. “Transportation and business conditions will improve if we fix that.’’

WS Develoment is also trying to determine if it must apply to the Conservation Commission to modify rules approved for the previous project, Masiello said.

“If required, we will file so that the review processes can conclude at almost the same time, meaning that the permit process could be completed as soon as this fall,’’ Masiello wrote in his e-mail.

The giant store will be Walmart’s newest prototype, with wider aisles, lower shelves, and parking under the building, a company spokesman said.

“This store will look very little like the older type of stores built in the 1990s when our company first entered the New England market,’’ Christopher N. Buchanan, a Walmart spokesman based in Plymouth, wrote in an e-mail.

At least 125 new jobs, most of them full-time positions, will be created if the store gets the green light, Buchanan said.

Walmart Stores Inc., the retailer’s parent company, once operated a Sam’s Club store on Route 1 in Saugus but closed it in 1996, amid fierce competition from other wholesale stores such as Costco.

But Walmart now is game for a second crack at Route 1.

“Our company’s internal market research shows us there is a need for fresh groceries and general merchandise in Saugus,’’ Buchanan wrote. “This store is a very good fit for Saugus and Walmart.’’

Kathy McCabe can be reached at kmccabe@globe.com.