The superstore giant is planning or building four new stores in Boise, Meridian and Nampa, boosting its presence in the Treasure Valley with multimillion-dollar projects.
Local governments have welcomed the new stores, which Wal-Mart says will employ about 700 people, while some neighboring residents have been apprehensive or dismayed about the developments.
The plans include two of the traditional Supercenter stores, which the company says will employ about 300 people, and two smaller Neighborhood Market stores, employing about 65 people each.
Wal-Mart currently employs about 6,640 people in Idaho, according to its website. Its average wage for regular full-time hourly employees is $12.29. It has 22 stores in Idaho.
A green fence now encloses a construction zone in Boise's Cole Village shopping center, at Cole and Ustick roads. Workers are undertaking a renovation of a 44,000-square-foot retail space. Permits value the construction at $3 million. When it opens this fall, it will be one of hundreds of Neighborhood Markets the company is rolling out across the country.
Work on a similar Neighborhood Market in western Nampa is expected to start in the fourth quarter of this year, leading to a planned mid-2014 opening, according to Nampa Mayor Tom Dale and city spokeswoman Sharla Arledge. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said groundbreaking and opening dates haven't been set.
The city has agreed to cover 77 percent of the cost of a $900,000 traffic signal project at the store's intersection, West Roosevelt Avenue and South Middleton Road.
"There have been no new grocery stores built in Nampa for a long time," Dale said. "It does serve a need over in that part of town."
In western Ada County, a 159,000-square-foot Supercenter at West Overland and South Stoddard roads is scheduled to open this summer, according to Rachel Wall, senior manager of communications for Wal-Mart.
That $13.5 million project is under construction. Commercial real estate brokers are marketing three spots near that store to restaurants and other businesses. Wal-Mart plans to hire about 300 people to staff the store and will open a temporary hiring center in early summer near the store.
Plans are brewing for another of the traditional stores on Ten Mile Road just north of McMillan Road in Meridian. There is no planned opening date or groundbreaking, Wall said.
She said Wal-Mart spent nearly $300 billion for merchandise and services in Idaho last year and paid about $94 million in taxes and fees in the state, including sales taxes it collected from customers.
The news last year that a Neighborhood Market was coming to Cole and Ustick prompted concerns from neighbors. They worried about all-hours truck deliveries and a spike in traffic at the intersection. The plans now include a noise-buffering wall, said Ronnie Marler, president of the West Bench Neighborhood Association.
"We've kind of gotten over the issues we had ... in the past, but we're still looking forward to seeing how it pans out once it gets up and running," Marler said. "(We hope) it will end up being a good thing."
He said the association is taking a "wait and see" attitude toward the new store.
The Supercenter that's under construction in Meridian is viewed more critically by some neighbors.
"It is a real mess," said Gena Leonard, whose home in the Bear Creek subdivision is next to the construction site. "We bought the house in September ... (and) a week after we moved in, they broke ground, and we went, 'What?' "
Leonard said her home and some neighbors' homes have been damaged during the construction.
Several other residents last year pleaded with the City Council to block the store from operating 24 hours a day and from including a drive-through pharmacy.
Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd said in an email that the city has been "working closely" for the past few months with residents behind the store.
"Neighbors came to us after experiencing damage to their homes and to share their concerns about the site's design, specifically a noise abatement wall," she said. "We are listening to all of their concerns and taking them very seriously."
The general contractor is working with residents to resolve their concerns about construction impacts, said Wall, the Wal-Mart spokeswoman.
Leonard gathered signatures on a petition for a tall concrete barrier between the store and the neighborhood, instead of a vinyl fence, to help with noise, aesthetics, security and residential property values.
Residents met Tuesday with a Wal-Mart representative at Meridian City Hall. The next day, the company said plans had changed.
"Today we submitted proposed plans to change the material and design of the wall along the property line," Wall said Wednesday. "We appreciate the dialogue with the neighbors in Bear Creek and look forward to the city's concurrence so we can install a masonry panel wall."
Leonard was "very satisfied with the resolution" and "thought that (Wal-Mart representatives and the mayor's office) were very attentive to our request," she said Thursday.
Audrey Dutton: 377-6448Twitter: @IDS_Audrey