Moline already looking at what can replace Sam’s Club

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MOLINE, Ill. (KWQC) – An announcement by Walmart Thursday left shockwaves across the country. And took hold in the Quad Cities.

“They are one of the top sales tax revenue generators in the city of Moline, so yeah we're definitely surprised by the decision,” said Ray Forsythe, the planning and development director for the City of Moline.

It is one of more than 60 places learning their Sam’s Club store is closing its doors with seemingly no explanation.

“I believe they told the mayor it was a corporate decision and there was multiple locations that were closing,” Forsythe said over the phone.

He says there was no indication the store was in trouble. Forsythe says he spoke with the store’s manager in November.

“He was not overly concerned about the store’s success.”

The Moline location has been opened for about three and a half years.

“And obviously it was a corporately owned store by Walmart and Sam’s and they intentionally came into the market,” he said.

Forsythe says the city is hopeful the corporation will quickly figure out a game plan for the abandoned stores. And the city is executing its own resources.

“We've reached back out to Retail Strategies who is our consulting firm that helps us recruit retail,” he said. “And they're working already on trying to get some answers to help us try to reposition the property.”

But he says the decision will ultimately be in the hands of the company.

“They own it, so they're going to have to maintain it and pay property taxes on it, so it's obviously in their best interest to repurpose it into a productive use,” Forsythe said.

The property is located along the John Deere Corridor. It is a place that has had its challenges over the years, but Forsythe says it's looking up.

“You know the Mill's Chevrolet site is in the process of getting redeveloped and that's going from a car dealership into a multi-tenant building,” he said.

Forsythe says Sam’s Club neighbor, Menards, left the city in a similar situation a few years back. The company moved from its building further West on John Deer Road to its current location. But the space was not left empty.

“You know when they transitioned to their new store they sold that existing building before they even moved out and that was repurposed, and now it’s Hobby Lobby and Pet Smart and Ross's Dress For Less,” Forsythe said.

And he is confident, if needed, they can fill this space as well.

“There's a lot of traffic that passes by every day so that site's pretty desirable, and we think someone's going to step back in and fill that void.”

Some of the closed stores will be turned into e-commerce stores or distribution centers. Forsythe says the city will work with the company to see if that is a possibility in Moline.

The store’s last day of operation in Moline is Jan. 26. It will mean the loss of a job for 155 people.