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MONROE, GA-Wal-Mart Stores Inc., on an unprecedented growth thrust that will see the Bentonville, AR-based merchant open 310 new stores nationwide in 2005, is expanding its largest distribution center in Georgia here to service its stores in the state and South Carolina by 2006, Walton County development agency authorities confirm for GlobeSt.com.

The world’s largest retailer, with fiscal 2004 sales of $259 billion, plans to break ground in summer 2005 on a $19-million, 400,000-sf addition to its existing 480,000-sf distribution center in this city of 68,000 permanent residents, 40 miles east of Downtown Atlanta. The 880,000-sf complex would be Wal-Mart’s largest distribution center in the state, local retailers following the company’s growth plans, tell GlobeSt.com.

The new center will create 200 new jobs, adding to the 500 workers at the existing distribution facility which is used for warehousing refrigerated foods. The new center will store general merchandise. Wal-Mart officials declined comment on its newest Georgia project but confirmed the company will be adding new stories and supporting facilities throughout the state in 2005 and 2006.

Wal-Mart arrived in Monroe in 1999 after city and county officials offered to reduce the retailer’s property taxes over a five-year period and give the company a $300,000 state grant to build a water storage facility for the 480,000-sf distribution center site, city staffers tell GlobeSt.com.

Wal-Mart has 120 stores, supercenters and Sam’s Clubs and eight distribution centers in Georgia employing a total 50,000 workers.

Meanwhile, at another Wal-Mart site in Avondale Estates, five miles east of Downtown Atlanta, the retailer continues to run into opposition on its redevelopment plans at the former 300,000-sf Avondale Mall location. Wal-Mart wants to clear the former mall property and build an estimated 235,000-sf, $20-million supercenter at the intersection of Columbia and Memorial drives.

Wal-Mart has owned the 50-acre site since September 2003. The mall closed in 2001. The retailer is asking DeKalb County to rezone the location for retail development. Nearby homeowners tell the county the site would be better redeveloped as a mix of small shops and homes with parks. But some elected officials maintain Wal-Mart’s presence would generate other new development which the county is actively seeking, area retail brokers tell GlobeSt.com.

The Avondale Estates planning and zoning commission votes on the rezoning request Nov. 23. The city’s mayor and commissioners will evaluate the planners’ decision Dec. 2.

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