Kenai's acting city manager said Friday that construction on the planned Kenai Wal-Mart store is expected to begin next year.
"We just got a firm timeline nailed down," Kopp said. "Construction is expected to begin next April."
Kopp had previously said construction was expected to begin in the next 24 months. However, after talking with Wal-Mart officials, he said the April date was firmed up something he said the city couldn't be happier about.
"We're very happy about that," he said.
Kopp said construction is expected to take approximately 18 months, with the store's opening tentatively planned for October 2007.
Kenai has been without a major retail outlet since K-Mart left town in 2003. The loss of that store dealt a major financial blow to the city's tax base, as well as created a void in the city's retail sector.
Response from the public on the planned store, Kopp said, has been overwhelmingly positive.
"I've gotten an avalanche of 'thank you's,'" he said.
Despite the fact that so-called "big box" retailers have created a backlash among small business owners in some parts of the country, Kopp said he hasn't heard anything but positive comments on Wal-Mart's decision to come to Kenai.
"I haven't had a single person come to me at City Hall to express concern," he said.
People who do have concerns about the store moving to Kenai will have several chances to air their grievances publicly, the next being at a Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at City Hall.
The acting city manager said he believes anyone with legitimate concerns will have them addressed through the public process.
"There will always be some people who have concerns," Kopp said.
He said he does not anticipate any major hurdles to the Wal-Mart construction, and said he believes the community is strongly behind the retail store coming to town.
"The overwhelming re-sponse is people are so relieved we're going to have a place in Kenai where you can buy general merchandise," he said.
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