Town manager Scott Crabtree says people in Saugus have been asking him for the past year when the new Walmart was coming.
Residents got their answer when the retail giant this month began the first stages of construction of the new supercenter at 770 Broadway, or Route 1 north.
The site is about a half-mile north of the Main Street interchange on Route 1, and about six-10ths of a mile from the turnoff for Lynn Fells Parkway.
The 114,244-square-foot store, which will be the closest Walmart supercenter to Boston, is set to open in the summer of 2014, according to Christopher N. Buchanan, Walmart’s regional director of public affairs and government relations.
“From a consumer standpoint, people are supportive of it,” Crabtree said, noting the competitive pricing the 24-hour-a-day store will offer for groceries and general merchandise.
He said the project is also expected to generate $250,000 in annual tax revenue for the town, on top of about $650,000 in one-time permit fees.
Walmart said the project will create an estimated 125 permanent jobs, and the general contractor, William A. Randolph, Inc. estimates 250 temporary construction jobs. Walmart has committed to using 100 percent union labor for the construction.
“There are some concerns with the traffic impact, but I think overall it should be a benefit to the community,” said Crabtree, who also cited infrastructure improvements the project will bring.
Town officials, area lawmakers, and union representatives were among those taking part at the groundbreaking ceremony held Friday by Walmart to celebrate the start of the project. Actual construction began a few weeks ago.
The chain had previously said it planned to begin construction last year and open the store this fall.
“We are excited to bring our first store to Saugus,” Buchanan said by e-mail. Regarding the later than expected start of the project, he said, “Initial dates are usually tentative. Now that we have broken ground, construction is moving at a good pace.”
The store will be constructed on concrete pillars above an existing parking lot on the 8-acre site, which Walmart is leasing from W/S Development.
“Our internal market research shows us that this area is underserved for competitively priced groceries,” Buchanan said of Walmart’s decision to locate a store in Saugus.
Unlike the case in some other communities where Walmart has proposed stores, the reception has been welcoming.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to is very pleased,” Selectwoman Julie Mitchell said. “For about six months, six out of 10 people will ask me ‘What is going on with Walmart?’ I think everyone is happy — I’m happy.
“It’s convenient to have Walmart in town. I think it’s going to bring in more revenue,” she said, adding that the new jobs will also be a plus. “Espcecially in this economy, we really could use that.”
Buchanan said hiring will begin next spring, and that the majority of the jobs will be full time.
“Many of our associates who work at our stores tend to live nearby in the community where we are located,” he said.
Michael Serino, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, is also hearing support for the project around town. “Any time you get competition, that’s good,” he said.
The Planning Board in 2007 issued site plan permits to Northbound LLC to erect an 82,518-square-foot retail building on the site, and a 55,001 square-foot retail building on an adjoining 9-acre site. The combined 17 acres were then owned by several corporate entities controlled by Northbound.
The projects never went forward, and Northbound in 2010 reached agreement to sell the land to Chestnut Hill-based W/S Development. In August 2011, the Planning Board agreed to modify the site plan permit for the 8-acre site in order to accommodate the new proposal to bring Walmart to the site.
W/S Development acquired the site in May 2012, but opted against purchasing the adjoining 9-acre parcel because it was not able to line up a tenant for that site, according to Louis Masiello, the company’s vice president of development.
Masiello said when it purchased the property, his firm executed a lease agreement with Walmart that allows building and operating its store on the eight-acre site.
Under the modified site plan, Walmart will be replacing a town sewage pumping station and installing 1,000 feet of water main, 700 feet of new sewer main, and a backup generator for the pumping station.
Crabtree said Walmart also helped the town with its successful bid for $875,000 in state funding to undertake a more extensive water main replacement on Route 1. Walmart advised the state that the improvements would be helpful to its development and the job creation that will result, he said.
Walmart also will be installing a new lane to accommodate vehicles accelerating onto Route 1 from the site and decelerating off the highway into the site, according to Masiello.