Work on Lewiston warehouse to begin in May.

LEWISTON – Maine contractors are not on Wal-Mart’s short list to lead the construction of its $85 million grocery warehouse complex.

Maine firms were invited to submit general bids for the Lewiston distribution facility, according to Wal-Mart Project Manager Joe Loethen. None did, however.

The company is reviewing those bids and should announce a general contractor in the next 45 days. That contractor will hire all subcontractors, and Maine firms are encouraged to get involved then, Loethen said.

“I’m sure we’ll have a mix of local and specialty contractors,” Loethen said. “Local firms should be well represented in the project.”

Work on the center is set to begin in May, Loethen said, but the scope of work is still uncertain.

Wal-Mart has planned to build the first phase of the project, a 485,000-square-foot mechanized produce and refrigerated grocery warehouse, since Dec. 2001. Plans for a second dry-goods warehouse northwest of the first building will go before the Lewiston Planning Board on Monday, March 22.

Planning Board approval would let the company build both warehouses at the same time or begin work on the dry-goods warehouse as soon as the refrigerated warehouse is done.

“That’s something we are still evaluating,” Loethen said. “I don’t think we’re ready to announce that, but we should finalize those details soon.”

Work on both phases is scheduled to wrap up sometime in 2007.

The first building amounts to a $45.5 million investment by Wal-Mart. That would include $25 million in machinery and equipment, $17.5 million in construction costs and $3 million in land.

The company is scheduled to begin paying about $1 million in property taxes annually on that building. According to the tax-increment financing deal with the retailer, about $300,000 of those taxes will be returned.

City officials estimate the second warehouse will be worth almost as much as the first. The complex should create as many as 750 new jobs when both phases are complete.

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