By Joel Hall
Despite the overcast and muggy weather, Clayton County officials gathered under a small tent off Anvil Block Road in Ellenwood to celebrate what will be a new Wal-Mart Supercenter.
While a significant portion of the exterior has already been built, the official ground breaking ceremony took place Thursday afternoon. The Wal-Mart will be the cornerstone of the Ellenwood Project, which includes the Villages of Ellenwood residential development, as well as Ellenwood Town Center, a mix of office, commercial, and retail space.
Hugh Morton, president of Peachtree Homes and the developer chosen to lead the Ellenwood Project, said the development would bring much needed goods and services to the eastern part of the county, which he said "has gotten to be one of the most under-served communities on the Southside."
"Right now, there is nowhere to eat up here. I have to go about two exits down," on Interstate 675, he said. "I think [this project] is going to be one of the most visually pleasing developments in Clayton County.
Larry Vincent, chairman of the Development Authority of Clayton County said the developers strayed from a conventional Wal-Mart design, in order to follow a concept in keeping with the Villages of Ellenwood development.
"It moved away from the box design," he said. "It's a design that's friendly to the community, instead of a corporate design. You have a great mixed-used development here that will add a lot of value."
Vincent said the 184,000 square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter would be a "great community anchor" and a "growth engine" for the area.
The new store will employ approximately 300 associates and will begin accepting applications three months before the grand opening, scheduled in March of 2008. The center will have a full line of groceries, clothing, health and beauty products, toys, a one-hour photo lab, a garden center, and a pharmacy.
Sonna Singleton, Clayton's commissioner of the district in which Ellenwood sits, welcomed Wal-Mart to the community. "I'm proud to stand before you and say that we have adopted this project," said Singleton to a small crowd gathered for the ground breaking. "This investment by Wal-Mart will be the catalyst to bring the kind of quality development we want in the east side of the county."
In addition to bringing in new business, Clayton County Chairman Eldrin Bell said the project would set the standard for future developments.
"Mr. [Hugh] Morton, has consented to exaggerated expectations," and "Wal-Mart has also made a commitment to carry a high quality product," said Bell. "In value and appearance, it sets the pace for our community and Wal-Mart.
"We want all the other communities in Clayton County to look at this and see it as an example of what can happen in their communities," he said.