SANGER, TX-The paperwork’s beginning to annex a 1.25-million sf Wal-Mart distribution center project into Sanger city limits in a pre-construction pact with the Bentonville, AR-based retailer that brings up to 950 jobs and $310,000 annually in real estate taxes to the rural community.

Jack Smith, Sanger’s city manager, tells the pact bars any tax collection prior to completion, which is anticipated in June or July. Consequently, city officials do not want the project listed on its tax rolls come Jan. 1, 2001, the date used to pro-rate tax bills on the basis of what is completed. Wal-Mart is walking away with a $156,000 per year tax abatement for 10 years in exchange for the promise of 650 jobs initially and another 300 by the end of five years, says Smith.

Rumor has it that Wal-Mart had bought the acreage for about $8,000 per acre from Dr. Edward Wolski. “That’s the rumor,” says Smith, calculating that same acreage in Denton or Dallas could fetch as much as $40,000 per acre for the seller.

The center, estimated to cost up to $80 million, is bringing jobs, revenue and additional growth to the town situated along Interstate 35 just 53 miles north of Dallas. Some 3,000 acres are being developed to construct a $1.7-billion golf course retirement community about four miles south of the Wal-Mart project while eight other residential projects–some with commercial and multifamily components–are being planned in the immediate vicinity of Wal-Mart’s 63rd US distribution site.

Smith says he has been receiving a lot of calls lately about the massive structure situated a stone’s throw from the Interstate. The project had looked like three relatively normal-size industrial buildings until they were connected in recent weeks. “Once they did that, then you realize it’s just monstrous,” he tells Very little space will be undeveloped on the 200 plus-acre tract. Wal-Mart, says Smith, will be using the remaining acreage for surface parking, gasoline pumps and a large maintenance shop for tractor-trailer repairs.

The structure has double sets of docking doors that wrap around it. Each of the 50 Wal-Mart stores in the region that will be serviced by the facility has a door. “Some of the stores aren’t even open yet,” Smith reveals. The remaining docks are strictly for vendors.

Smith says Sanger’s good fortune of late is directly related to its ready abundance of land at reasonable prices along the NAFTA Highway. In the immediate Wal-Mart vicinity, four residential developments totaling about 730 acres are in the works and another four are being plotted. And, there’s a $20-million high school being built relatively close to the distribution center. “That’ll bring commercial too … if nothing else, hamburgers for the kids,” quips Smith, saying Sanger has just added two fast-food eateries to its one motel, one-traffic signal demographics. All of the projects have come about since Wal-Mart started construction last summer. Smith credits the TXU and Denton County economic development councils with luring Wal-Mart to town. “They found us,” he says of the retailer.

Wal-Mart is expecting to open the center in September. The company currently operates 152 discount stores, 94 supercenters, 53 SAM’s clubs and nine distribution centers in Texas, with more than 95,500 on this state’s employment roster.

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