Walmart breaks ground on store in New Orleans East

Crews at work at the Walmart site in N.O. East
Crews at work at the Walmart site in N.O. East

New Orleans, La. - Walmart broke ground on a new store in the former Lakeland Medical Center site at the Southwest corner of I-10 and Bullard Avenue on Monday.

Once completed, the new store will provide jobs and access to fresh food to the New Orleans East community. The state-of-the-art store is expected to open in mid-2014.

The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by representatives of Walmart, City of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond, members of the New Orleans City Council, neighborhood leaders and representatives of the New Orleans Business Alliance.

"Walmart's investment in New Orleans East shows how far our city has come," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. "This project will transform a site that's been undeveloped for seven long years, bring much needed retail to this area, create new jobs and local tax dollars and serve as a spark for continued development in the area."

Area resident Donald Bacot said development in N.O. East "was coming on slow, but now it looks like it's picking up and I'm really looking forward to the new project."

The Walmart store will offer the first nearby grocer since Katrina. Bacot said, "I'm going to be thrilled because I could ride my bike up there." He said that would be a treat instead of his drive to Metairie, Chalmette or Slidell.

City Councilman James Gray is happy to see projects like this and the Big Lots across the street move forward.

He said, "Like many things it's been in the works for a while. We're happy to be able to play a role in getting some of the details worked out... Walmart is perhaps the biggest employer that we have been able to announce bringing in jobs, jobs with benefits. It's a great thing."

People are excited about the new development.  But with so much empty space, such as the former Walmart site, there's plenty of room for more.

Bacot notes, "We don't have anything like a mall here. I know that may be asking a lot." He said, "We could use a little shopping center or something like that that can provide more things. Like Christmas time for Christmas shopping or something for my wife for Mother's Day or even her birthday. "

Gray is not promising a mall, but he says there is more to come.  "There's going to be plenty of things," Gray said. "There were a lot of retailers who were waiting for Walmart. Now that Walmart is coming they are going to come."