Wal-Mart set to open before Jan. 1

By Justin Boron

Eric Scott said he fears his quiet streets and peaceful walks might be replaced by the perpetual hum of automobile engines, rumbling into the new Wal-Mart Supercenter expected to open before 2005.

Or the other side n the shopping complex could become the ultimate convenience, he said.

"I'm worried about the traffic, but it'll be close so I'll walk," he said. "I might even work there."

The store will open up 450 jobs there when it opens, said Glen Wilkins, the community affairs representative for Atlanta.

"We always want to hire those within the community," he said.

Scott lives in The Registry at Lovejoy, where several residential streets coalesce, trickling out of the subdivision onto Lovejoy Road.

The road is the only buffer between the neighborhood and the soon-to-be completed Wal-Mart.

Getting into his car to go to work, Scott views with uncertainty the landscape of pavement leading up to almost completed Wal-Mart fa?ade.

His home's location puts him at the center of a debate between the store's practicality and its potentially detrimental impact on the community.

Scott said both sides were valid, but he would have to "wait and see" to determine whether Wal-Mart would shape the community in a positively.

Lovejoy City Council member Bobby Cartwright concedes that development is inevitable in the once rural city, but is optimistic about the shopping center's completion.

"It's going to bring a lot more revenue to the community," he said. "It'll bring traffic by our local businesses as well."

The convenience of the mega-stores has lightened the community's mood about the stores arrival, even though the company has been a source of contention in other metro Atlanta communities.

Residents like Patty Odom see it as an advantage.

"We want to get the tax money from them when they open up," she said.

Despite some open arms from residents, Wal-Mart's lasting impact on the streets surrounding it remains unclear.

Several transportation projects must be coordinated with the store's opening, said Andy Adams, the assistant director of transportation and development for Clayton County.

Cars whip around a tight curve on Lovejoy Road before coming to a stop sign that often brings congestion at peak hours of traffic.

County traffic officials hope the road's realignment and a new traffic sign will remedy a potentially "undesirable traffic situation."

But there are some obstacles standing in the way, he said.

Since Ga. Highway 19/41 is a state road, the Georgia Department of Transportation must approve the plans.

The process usually takes three months, Adams said.

Georgia DOT has had the Lovejoy plans for more than three months, he said.

"It's just the typical process," he said. "It is a time consuming issue to deal with."

Wal-Mart has contributed to the roadway improvements, donating a total of $205,000 to the county, said Jeff Metarko, the county transportation engineer.

The company agreed to pay for the installation of a traffic signal on Tara Boulevard and put up $100,000 for the roughly $1 million Lovejoy Road realignment.

The store also needs to finish a lot of electrical work and shelving before it will be fully stocked and ready for business, Wilkins said.