TURLOCK -- Wal-Mart is coming to Turlock at the site of an old Mervyn's store.
Construction fencing has gone up and work is under way on the 62,000-square-foot building at 2480 Geer Road. The Roseville-based company Reeve-Knight Construction, which has signs posted around the site, confirmed on its website that it is working on a Wal-Mart in Turlock.
The space long has been rumored to become a Wal-Mart, and in April, the city Planning Commission further fueled the rumor by approving a permit for use by a 24-hour grocery store. The site likely will become a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, one of the retail giant's grocery store offshoots.
Wal-Mart and Reeve-Knight officials could not be reached for comment.
A Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, which is open 24 hours a day, opened in Modesto in September.
Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden said he had not heard the Wal-Mart was confirmed. But said he was pleased work has begun to rejuvenate the space, which has been empty since 2008, when Mervyn's went bankrupt and shuttered all its stores.
"It was always suspected it could be Wal-Mart," Wasden said. "That's been the constant rumor it would be a grocery service because it has the right size footage. We're happy to have that space not sitting vacant and have productive use. Vacant buildings are just a drag on the neighborhood."
The new Wal-Mart site is across the street from a Save Mart and a block south of a Raley's.
Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets offer fresh produce, meats, a bakery, frozen foods, canned and dry goods, household products and a full pharmacy. The stores usually are about 40,000 square feet and employ about 80 to 100 workers each. The chain launched the smaller-scale grocery spinoff in 1998 and now has more than 250 locations across the country.
Reeve-Knight Construction has worked on several of the Neighborhood Market projects, including sites in San Jose, Sacramento, Rancho Cordova, Antelope and Visalia.
Turlock has had a rocky past with the world's largest retailer. In 2006, the city spent nearly $400,000 in court successfully fighting a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter off Countryside Drive, along Highway 99. The battle began in 2003 when the City Council passed an ordinance banning the planned 225,000- square-foot center. The ordinance prohibited "discount superstores" greater than 100,000 square feet that devote more than 5 percent of the sales floor to nontaxable or grocery items. Wal-Mart sued the city shortly after.
Turlock prevailed in federal court in 2006; the next year, the discount chain sold the property.
At the Planning Commission meeting in April, deputy planner Debbie Whitmore said the new 24-hour grocery was a different case.
"If you follow the discount supercenter arguments, the city had to be very clear about the purpose being served by its ordinance," she said during the meeting. Planning commissioners approved the proposal after addressing concerns by neighbors about the hours of operation, congestion and noise.
Reaction to the news was mixed. Some in Turlock lauded the arrival of more jobs and affordable products. Others were less than enthusiastic about the mega-retailer expanding its presence.
"I'm disappointed to learn that a grocery is moving into this location. We already have one Wal-Mart store in Turlock, and as far as I'm concerned, that's one too many," said resident Fernando Beltrán.
Shay Edwards Poolman said normally she would be opposed to another Wal-Mart, but after visiting the Modesto Neighborhood Market, she was pleasantly surprised.
"It was very clean, especially for a Wal-Mart, and the prices were great," she said. "Of course there are going to be complaints, but with jobs being created in addition to the savings it could bring to the average family, I believe it's a good thing for Turlock."
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on www.twitter.com/turlocknow.