The William & Mary community will soon be able to shop for groceries, pick up a prescription, get an oil change and buy DVDs (if anyone still does that) in one convenient location with the opening of Walmart's first on-campus Super Mall.
The 260,000-square foot shopping center will stand five stories tall and feature everything from a completely stocked supermarket and pet grooming area to an auto body shop, a nail salon and a performance area where clowns routinely will be twisting balloons into the shape of jungle animals.
While Walmart has opened its much smaller neighborhood-style stores on some college campuses across the United States, the "Super Mall" concept is a new one for the popular big-box retail franchise, which hopes to open these in the historical order of the founding of colleges and universities. Harvard declined to be first, but officials at William & Mary have embraced the idea.
"This is a direct response to feedback we have received from faculty, staff and students that they would like expanded shopping options on or near campus," said a William & Mary spokesperson. "When Walmart approached us with this new concept, it was a no-brainer - a win-win. As the saying goes in Williamsburg, bigger is always better."
Not everyone on campus is thrilled with the planned addition to the campus.
"We're opening a Walmart? Really?" asked one student. "I think students just wanted another store that they could walk to. This is typical William & Mary. We ask for a second Wawa and they give us a Super Mall."
While feelings towards the new addition to campus are mixed, some in the community are warming up to the idea. "There's something to be said for not having to get in my car and drive two miles to get to the Walmart at Settler's Market," said another student. "Depending on traffic that can take as long as six minutes."
Walmart expects to break ground as early as 2017 on the space currently occupied by the Campus Center. That building will be demolished to make way for the Super Mall, which will wrap around to the current Undergraduate Admission building.
"This will be great," remarked one admission official. "Parents can bring their children to campus for a tour, get their tires rotated, shop for TVs and pick up dinner all at the same time. It will be a huge draw, especially on April Fools' Day."