Walmart proposed for long-time site of church

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SARASOTA - Walmart recently opened one its Neighborhood Markets on Sarasota's North Tamiami Trail, and the company could soon be opening another location in Sarasota...on a proposed site that's got people talking.

That's because in order to build the store, a local church whose property is currently for sale would have to be torn down. The building is the current home of the River's Edge Community Church, before that it was a Lutheran church. In fact, people have been worshipping on the site at Beneva Road and Bee Ridge Road since the 1960's.

But the property is currently for sale, and if things go according to the developer's plan, this land could at some point be the home of Sarasota's newest Walmart Neighborhood Market.

“They might need a Walmart, but I wish they'd leave the Lord’s house alone," says resident Laura Kurtz.

"It’s going to be a little small kind of neighborhood grocery, and I think it would be a welcomed addition for this neighborhood," says Zandria Mansfield.

Sarasota developer Jim Bridges of Jebco Ventures, who did not want to conduct an interview for this story, hopes to purchase the land -- currently on the market for $6.7 million -- and build the Walmart store.

The property sits on one of the city's busiest intersections, and would be in direct competition with Publix, which sits just across the street.

"The two of them would be in heated competition, and I suppose that's good for customers, but I think it's just too much," says Lee Metzger.

Others say the variety would give consumers more options, especially those on a tight budget. "I go wherever I can get to a Walmart, because I think their prices are fabulous and can't beat them," says Anne Louise Rizzuto.

Despite the property being for sale, others say the home of a church is no place for commercial property. "You don't mess with a sacred place; that’s where the Lord is."

We did try and reach the pastor for comment, but were unable to get a hold of him.

There will be a public meeting this Thursday to decide whether or not the county will allow the property to be re-designated as a commercial property. That's one of the first steps in this process.