Braden Lammers

The Wal-Mart lot on the corner of Locust and Spring streets may no longer sit vacant, if a Oxford Planning Commission plan is approved by Oxford City Council.

The Oxford Planning Commission approved a $20 million development to replace the abandoned Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. building Tuesday, April 10.

The former Wal-Mart building’s 104,000-square-feet of space will potentially be a private, mixed-use development. The site will be divided between retail and residential space.

The developer, Trammell Crow Co., would not use the existing Wal-Mart building, explained Bill Brewer, vice chair of the Oxford Planning Commission. Brewer said Trammell Crow would replace the former Wal-Mart structure with several buildings. Businesses will occupy around 40,000-square-feet of the space.

The $20 million development has no definitive timeline on when actual construction would begin. There is also no target completion date set because the proposal must achieve final approval from the Oxford City Council. Though Brewer didn’t know an exact date for the presentation of the proposal, he said the proposal would be made “pretty soon.”

It is not yet known how the business space will be divided or what businesses may occupy the space once completed, said Sondra Engel, a member of the planning commission.

“(Wal-Mart) has been an empty site … an eyesore for a couple of years,” Engel said.”Some type of development was expected.”

Wal-Mart had a very long lease on the site, and Engel said her impression was that they held on to the lease until someone had a development plan ready to go outside of another big box company moving in the space.

“It isn’t up to the planning commission to say what businesses should go in there,” Engel said.

According to Engel, the development calls for the use of business property at the front of the lot and residential property behind that.

Brewer said the residential area will contain six buildings, consisting of 68 apartments, and will be designed for students only. In addition, Brewer also said each apartment would be able to house four students under the proposed designs.

The use of the site as residential space was the source of some conflict for the planning commission, according to Brewer.

Brewer said the approval of the development was not unanimous. The planning commission vote was five for and two against. Both Bill Brewer and Alysia Fischer, a council representative, voted against approval of the development, according to Brewer.

“Some of the people felt that (the development) should remain general business,” Brewer said.

He said the development would take up some of the last prime real estate in Oxford’s general business area, so some people feel that it should be entirely commercial instead of partially residential.

“There is no more room (for business in Oxford) to grow,” Brewer said.

Brewer suggested that Trammell Crow’s plan to include student housing was a monetary decision.

“Developers make their money off students,” Brewer said.

Trammell Crow’s final proposal still has to get approval from Oxford City Council, and should come before council in the coming months, according to Brewer.

Engel said she anticipated that the plan would be seen through to completion.

“I think the whole (development plan) will be successful,” Engel said.

While the proposed development is not ideal for all members of the planning commission, the business will be very important to Oxford, Engel said. She said the evelopment is important because it offers housing, commerce and revenue for the city.