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Amherst Walmart Supercenter opening; Debuts Wednesday on Sheridan Drive; current store closing on Falls Boulevard

After years of legal wrangling, Walmart will open its new Amherst Supercenter on Wednesday.

Walmart's current store at 2055 Niagara Falls Blvd. will close at 6 p.m. today in preparation for the newly built location at 3242 Sheridan Drive near North Bailey Avenue.

The new store employs about 500 people, according to the store's assistant manager. Some employees from the old store have already begun working at the new location, readying it for opening day. The rest will report to work Wednesday.

The 185,000-square-foot store will bear all the trademark features of the latest generation of Walmart Supercenters. It will have a full grocery store, which the current traditional store lacks, as well as wide aisles, high ceilings, skylights and multiple entrances. The deep-discount, big-box retailer's latest location gains about 30,000 square feet over the current site. Pete Illenz is the store manager.

Construction of the new store began in early 2010, but the real work began years earlier.

Plans for the new Walmart, which is built on the site of the former Ames Department store plaza, began swirling in 2006. Walmart fought lawsuits by members of the Hartford-North Bailey Homeowners Association. Residents tried to block construction, raising a number of concerns about the store, which borders residential neighborhoods.

In June 2008, then-State Supreme Court Justice Joseph G. Makowski dismissed attempts to kill the project on environmental and procedural grounds. The decision was upheld by the Appellate Division in 2009, the same year the Court of Appeals refused to hear the residents' case.

Early last year, demolition began on the vacant Ames Department store, DSW shoe store and Linens 'N Things building to clear space for the project. Walmart has traditional stores in Lockport, Warsaw and on Thruway Plaza Drive. It has Supercenters in Clarence, Lancaster, Hamburg, Niagara Falls, Springville, Batavia and Albion.

email: schristmann@buffnews.com