Wal-Mart, which first opened its Neighborhood Markets in 1998, now has nearly 200 of them across the country. A typical store is 30,000-40,000 square feet in floor space, much less than newer markets such as Safeway's Lifestyle store in Pleasanton that just opened. That makes the Nob Hill site a perfect fit and especially attractive in a neighborhood that lacks a nearby store. These markets feature a wide variety of products with prices generally lower than the larger stores, which is why they've gained such appeal in Chicago and New York where several Neighborhood Markets recently opened, even though those cities have generally been anti-Wal-Mart in their political positioning.
That could be Wal-Mart's concern in Pleasanton, too, even though the regular Wal-Mart discount store in the Hacienda Business Park is one of the city's largest sources of sales tax revenue. Several members of the Pleasanton City Council are openly hostile toward Wal-Mart and have already indicated they will look closely at any new application for a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market.
It's not clear just how much control they'll have over Wal-Mart's bid to replace Nob Hill. Early indications are that its new market would be much the same as Nob Hill's in terms of operating space, with the only changes in the color of the paint, new front doors and added refrigeration capacity. That could mean that all Wal-Mart needs is "discretionary approval" from city inspectors and planners in January, when Wal-Mart is expected to provide final documentation to the plans it has already submitted. If the plans meet city requirements, the Neighborhood Market would open in April.
Based on what we've heard from customers in other cities, the Neighborhood Market will give former Nob Hill customers an appealing place to do their grocery shopping again. The city will gain, too. About a third of the sales in supermarkets are non-food purchases, with hundreds of thousands of sales tax dollars going into city coffers, which Pleasanton lost when Nob Hill closed. Here's a chance to gain those tax receipts back while boosting grocery buying opportunities at the Santa Rita Center.