Walmart leaves Severance for Oakwood

People lined up in front of the new Walmart, waiting to get inside on opening day. Photos by James Henke.

Walmart closed its store at Severance Town Center on Oct. 15 and opened a new “supercenter” in Oakwood Commons the next day. Oakwood Commons is located on Warrensville Center Road in South Euclid, on the site of the former Oakwood Country Club.

The new store has a floor area of 180,000 square feet, compared to 126,000 at Severance, and, unlike its former location, features a full-line grocery section. The Oakwood store was designed to be the first Walmart store to be certified through the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

While the new store will please many area residents, offering them a wide array of products at low prices, it also raises two important issues for the community.

For one, it is not known what the new store’s impact will be on local, independent retailers. In a recent Plain Dealer article, John Zagara, of Zagara’s Marketplace in Cleveland Heights, addressed this. He noted that, during the past year, his company has spent $350,000 to renovate its single grocery store on Lee Road. New energy-efficient freezers, self-service organic bulk food dispensers, and reach-in beer coolers are among the improvements. He has also instituted a new shopper loyalty program. Nonetheless, Zagara said he is anticipating an initial 10-percent drop in his business as a result of the new Walmart store.

The other concern is for the future of Severance Town Center. The shopping center has lost several tenants during the past few years, and, with Walmart’s departure, is nearly 30-percent vacant. Its owner’s plans are uncertain.

Mayor Edward J. Kelley said he was optimistic about the shopping center’s future. “To me, this is an opportunity,” he said. “Walmart has been a great anchor tenant for many years, but now that the store is no longer there, I think it can bring about a rebirth and revitalization of Severance.”

Kelley said that he thinks the former Walmart store will be divided into multiple stores. “I think this gives the owners a real chance to reposition and redevelop Severance. I am very confident that we can do something that will transform the entire shopping center.”

Pine Tree Commercial Realty, the company that manages Severance, did not return calls, but Kelley praised Pine Tree, saying that it recently brought in a new person to manage Severance and hired new maintenance crews to clean up the grounds. He is pleased with the changes.

There has been some talk of trying to remove the shopping center to use the property for new residential units; a possibility Kelley dismisses. He said there is a chance that senior housing might be added outside Severance Circle, but that the focus in the commercial core of Severance will continue to be on retail.

Meanwhile, the new Walmart Supercenter is attracting large crowds during its first several days in business.

James Henke

James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He is also the author of several books, including biographies of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Bob Marley.

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Volume 6, Issue 11, Posted 10:12 AM, 10.22.2013