One of the largest and most complex construction projects in years in Mahoning Township is complete and Wednesday local residents can see the finished product.
The new Wal-Mart super center along Route 443, about a half-mile west of the existing Wal-Mart, has its grand opening at 8 a.m. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 7:30 a.m.
One of the highlights is the announcement that $3,500 in grants from the Wal-Mart Foundations will be awarded. Recipients are Mahoning Valley Ambulance, Mahoning Valley Fire Company and Trinity Food Bank.
The new Wal-Mart is perched atop a huge, man-made hill. Construction of the store, the special lanes going into it, and the parking lot have taken more than a half year. The store is not visible from Route 443.
The current Wal-Mart will close permanently at 7 p.m. today. Eventually the store will be razed and a Lowe's Home Improvement Center will be constructed on the site.
The new store has a full grocery line. It has 204,000 square feet of shopping space, well over twice the amount of space the present store has. It's more than 25 percent larger than the Hometown Wal-Mart.
The new Wal-Mart features wide aisles, enhanced service, and a layout designed to make shopping convenient to customers.
"The layout of the store is easy to navigate, which will save our customers time as they shop for everyday necessities," said store manager Girvin Janicki. "By grouping the products that our customers most often purchase, including health and beauty and pet supplies, we are making one-stop shopping even easier."
Lower shelving creates an improved sight line and directional signage on every aisle helps customers find what they are looking for quickly.
Wal-Mart also combined the customer service desk, site-to-store pickup location, and photo lab in one area near the entrance.
Janicki said about 150 new jobs were created with the new store construction. He also noted that more than 65 percent of the present store's associates have worked for Wal-Mart more than 10 years.
A special preview of the store was held Sunday night for store employees and their families. At the preview was the Lehighton Area High School Choir, under the direction of David Perkins. The choir will be part of the grand opening tomorrow.
Rev. Allen Heckman of Zion United Church of Christ, Lehighton, offered the invocation at Sunday's event, while Janicki made comments and welcomed the approximately 600 people who attended.
It was emphasized at Sunday's event that every effort was made to make the store as environmentally friendly as possible. Janicki said the new Wal-Mart, like all new Wal-Mart Stores, "includes energy-efficient technology and environmentally friendly features to reduce energy and water consumption and minimize waste."
Skylights in the roof harvest daylight and reduce the amount of energy required to light the store by up to 75 percent. LED lighting in the store operates 70 percent more efficiently than traditional fluorescent lighting.
The cement used in the concrete flooring is made with recycled materials, and the floor's finish reduces the need for chemical cleaners. Low-flow toilets and faucets reduce the water used in the bathroom.
Virtually all cardboard and plastic generated in shipping and other store uses is recycled.
There are three tenant partners in the new store. They are Subway, Smart Style Hair Salon, and Woodforest Bank.
Janicki said one thing he loves most about the new store is the view.
"The view is unbelievable," he said, noting that visitors to Wal-Mart can see for miles from the parking lot.