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Wal-Mart seeks new site for superstore

Wal-Mart is looking for another location to place its supercenter because the company believes its deal for the Lockport Mall site is about to fall through.

Councilman David H. Knight said the mall owners, General Growth Properties, raised their price for the almost-empty South Transit Road mall by $1 million.

Phil Serghini, a Wal-Mart spokesman, wouldn't confirm the figure, but he did say Friday that the companies haven't been able to agree on a price.

"General Growth does want to renegotiate that deal," Serghini said. "At some point, you've got to move on at the business end. If the numbers don't add up, you can't do business."

He said negotiations haven't broken down completely, but Wal-Mart feels it needs to look for other sites in and around Lockport. "We need to serve that area as part of our business plan," Serghini said.

David Keating, General Growth's director of corporate communications, said, "General Growth normally does not comment on its business dealings."

Wal-Mart had a purchase option for the mall that expired Dec. 31. The retail giant had been hoping it could win approval for its 185,000-square-foot supercenter from the Town of Lockport's Planning and Zoning boards before then.

When that didn't happen, Leslie D. Senglaub, Wal-Mart's Rochester-based attorney, told The Buffalo News the delay wouldn't get in the way of completing the project.

But Wal-Mart sent the town a letter Jan. 30, asking that the town "temporarily suspend" its application. The letter said the move was "due to circumstances beyond the Town of Lockport's control."

Since then, Wal-Mart has offered no further explanation. Town Supervisor Marc R. Smith said Friday, "I haven't heard anything. They were supposed to call me April 3, but they didn't."

"We don't know what's going on," Planning Board Chairman Richard Forsey said.

What's going on, according to Serghini, is that Wal-Mart's land broker was sent out to look for other sites in the Lockport area, and real estate scouts from the retailer's Bentonville, Ark., corporate headquarters already have toured some.

"Unfortunately for Lockport, that could be outside their jurisdiction," Serghini said. "I can't talk about specific sites."

But he disclosed that Wal-Mart's corporate real estate committee, which includes Chief Executive Officer Lee Scott, will soon consider a new location for the Lockport store.

Pendleton Supervisor James A. Riester said he hasn't been contacted by Wal-Mart, but he said, "Certainly we'd be interested in speaking with them."

City of Lockport Mayor Michael W. Tucker said he'd had no contact with Wal-Mart and doubted the city could offer a suitable site.

"Our preference is that [Lockport Mall] site," Serghini said. "It's a little frustrating, because we did spend a lot of time on that project."

Wal-Mart first submitted an application for a combination discount store and supermarket at the mall in the spring of 2004.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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