Walmart planning new distribution center in Bentonville (UPDATED)

by Paul Gatling (pgatling@nwabj.com) 6,361 views 

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is planning to build a new distribution center in Bentonville, about five miles southwest of its headquarters on Walton Boulevard.

The company has submitted its large-scale development proposal to city planners, and it is scheduled to be considered at the planning commission meeting April 18.

Walmart has not announced plans for the new facility, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday (April 3).

According to the development plan filed with the city — called Project Maple — Walmart is proposing a building totaling 1.27 million square feet, to be built on 120 acres at 5800 S.W. Regional Airport Blvd. The site is across the highway from the existing 1.2 million-square-foot Walmart Distribution Center 6094 at 5801 S.W. Regional Airport Blvd. It opened approximately 20 years ago.

The new building will include 1.03 million square feet of warehouse space, 216,000 square feet dedicated to shipping operations, and 16,307 square feet of office space. The filing also indicates an additional 299,000 square feet for a warehouse expansion in the future.

The land is owned by Ft Scott Property LLC, a Delaware-registered entity that paid $2.63 million for the acreage in February 2013. The Ronald and Sherry Rominger Revocable Trust was the seller.

It was rezoned by city planners in February 2015 from A-1, Agricultural to I-1, Light Industrial.

It’s unclear what the facility’s primary purpose will be. Beau Thompson, a senior planner for the city of Bentonville, said he did not have any specific operational information related to the development.

A facility that supports Walmart’s rapidly growing e-commerce business would seem logical. Such a center would help Walmart better compete with Amazon when it comes to online order fulfillment.

Growing e-commerce sales in the U.S. is a top priority for the retailer, and the company has spent more than $2 billion on its e-commerce infrastructure in the past two years.

“We’re rapidly enhancing our fulfillment capabilities to give customers more choices and fast shipping, while keeping our costs down so we can continue to lower our prices,” said Neil Ashe, former CEO of Walmart Global eCommerce, when the company opened a new e-commerce fulfillment center in Atlanta in October 2015. “Whether shipping to home or picking up at a store, our digital and physical fulfillment assets come together and let customers choose the most convenient way to receive their online orders.”

The centers are part of what Walmart calls its next-generation fulfillment network — Walmart  distribution centers, existing e-commerce facilities, 4,500 Walmart stores and a world-class transportation fleet — that ships packages faster and more efficiently, while offering customers more choices for how they receive online orders.

UPDATE
In an email sent Tuesday (April 4) to Talk Business & Politics-Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, Walmart spokeswoman Anne Hatfield confirmed the company’s plans to build the facility in southwest Bentonville, but said it will not be an e-commerce facility. She added it was too soon to discuss other specific details related to construction and number of jobs.

“We have decided to build a new distribution center here in the local NWA area to increase our logistics capacity and capabilities in this market,” she wrote in the email. “NWA continues to be an attractive location for supporting our distribution needs in the Midwest.”

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