Since plans for a new Sam’s Club in Hemet have collapsed, the old Wal-Mart building across from Hemet Valley Mall — where the warehouse club store would have been built — now sits boarded up and empty with its fate undecided.

Wal-Mart, the parent company of the popular warehouse store, has announced that plans to build Sam’s Club have been abandoned to focus on other stores in the region. Store officials said they are actively trying to sell the Hemet property.

The Arkansas-based retailer announced in early 2005 a plan to tear down an existing, former Wal-Mart discount store on Florida Avenue, near Gilmore Street. A new Wal-Mart Supercenter opened on Sanderson Avenue in 2004 and Wal-Mart proposed a new 135,000-square-foot Sam’s Club to replace the old store. Sam’s Club would sell food and general merchandise and feature a 12-pump gas station.

The company was first going to tear down the old store and build a new one for Sam’s Club and later planned to convert the old building into a new store.

No construction has occurred since.

What is happening in Hemet should serve as a cautionary tale for other Inland cities dealing with Wal-Mart and other big box stores, said Al Norman, of Greenfield, Mass., a national critic of Wal-Mart for more than a decade.

“After seeing what Wal-Mart did, what it did to Hemet, leaving it at the altar, you probably don’t want to deal with that sort of entity anymore,” Norman said.

Norman, who protested plans to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Hemet, said the city should have set up contingency plans or demanded demolition bond money for the old Wal-Mart building before allowing construction of the Supercenter.

“Hemet said yes to a superstore, over the objections of its residents … and they are reaping the results,” he said. “An empty building nearly the size of three football fields along one of its main commercial corridors.”

Mayor Marc Searl, who was not on the City Council when the Supercenter was approved, said he was disappointed with the decision to not build Sam’s Club.

“They did not deal with us in good faith,” Searl said. “I think their intention was not to put a Sam’s Club there.”

He said what happened is likely to encourage the city to look at its rules to prevent a similar situation in the future.

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