Hermantown Walmart expansion OK'd by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

The expansion of the Hermantown Walmart store is finally moving forward after the project got the storm-water management permit that had been holding up construction.

Hermantown Walmart
The Walmart store in Hermantown will be expanded, but not as much as the retailing giant had originally planned in 2005. (2006 file / News Tribune)

The expansion of the Hermantown Walmart store is finally moving forward after the project got the storm-water management permit that had been holding up construction.

"It's always been the biggest hurdle," John Klaers, Hermantown's planning and zoning director, said of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency permit.

While Walmart officials say they don't have a construction start date yet, it could happen this fall. The city of Hermantown has approved the project and negotiated the development agreement with Walmart.

"We are ready to go," said Walmart spokeswoman Lisa B. Nelson.

"The Walmart store is a big part of Hermantown and Duluth and to have it expanded is going to be a good thing," said Hermantown City Administrator John Mulder. "It will provide more opportunities for people."


The MPCA permit -- which had eluded the project from the start -- was issued July 1, said Jeff Udd, the agency's industrial wastewater permitting supervisor.

A 30-day period for public comment ended May 3, generating just two comments from people concerned about the environment, Udd said.

But both the city of Hermantown and the MPCA are satisfied that the scaled-down project will have minimal environmental impact.

"Hermantown is satisfied," Klaers said. "Their wetland is less than 10,000 square feet, so there's no need to recreate wetlands."

There's no need for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet, either, because the project is smaller than the original plans, he said.

"They've done as much as they can to mitigate the effect (on the environment)," Mulder said.

Walmart's initial plans, presented in 2005, were to demolish the existing store and build a supercenter 70 percent bigger. Because of opposition from residents concerned about wetlands, and the high costs to install a system to keep storm water from running into nearby Miller Creek, plans for the 204,000-square-foot store stalled.

But the company came back last year with plans for a smaller project. Keeping and remodeling the existing store, Walmart will increase its size by 50 percent with additions to the side and rear of the building. They'll add a modern exterior and, inside, a full line of groceries.


"Now it's just an addition, and we have a much better storm-water management plan than five years ago," Klaers said.

Nelson called the storm-water management plan "top-notch."

The new plan -- presented after Walmart put the whole project on hold for a year -- has sustainable approaches to protect Miller Creek. They include rain gardens, storm-water detention and underground storm-water collection chambers, said Nelson, a senior public affairs manager for Walmart.

A laundry list of tasks for Walmart to accomplish remain before Hermantown can issue them a building permit, Klaers said.

Heading the list, Nelson said, is assuring that the expanded Walmart continues to have bus service, which is important to its customers and employees.

The building plans, which are unlikely to change, make it difficult for a Duluth Transit Authority bus to maneuver through.

"There's no room for a bus to turn in there," Nelson said. "For some reason, it just won't work. So we're working with the city and DTA on solutions."

Once this to-do list is taken care of, Klaers said a building permit could be processed fairly quickly.


"It could happen in less than a week," he said.

Architectural renderings of Walmart expansion
Construction on the expansion of the Walmart store in Hermantown, shown here in architectural renderings, could begin as early as this fall, with the granting of a storm-water management permit by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. (Submitted illustration)

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