An Atlanta Police Department substation will be located inside the Vine City Walmart grocery store and pharmacy when it is slated to reopen next spring. Walmart closed its Supercenter in the Historic Westside Village development on MLK Jr. Drive late last year after alleged arson. (Walmart)

The Vine City Walmart Supercenter that closed last year after alleged arson is slated to reopen in May 2024 as a Neighborhood Market with a pharmacy and grocery store, ensuring people in the historic Westside neighborhood have access to fresh food.

The store will also include an Atlanta Police Department substation where an officer’s presence is intended to prevent crime, according to city and Walmart officials.

The announcement of the Walmart reopening was made at an Aug. 29 community meeting at the Abernathy Center at Historic West Hunter Street Church, a spiritual and strategic meeting place during the civil rights movement. Attending the meeting was a slate of Walmart executives and city officials, including Mayor Andre Dickens and City Councilmember Byron Amos.

Dickens recalled telling Walmart officials about the “need and necessity” of reopening the store on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Without the store, the community would become a food desert.

“Food insecurity is real across Georgia,” Dickens said. “And we don’t want it to happen here in Atlanta. Eight years ago, about 54% of the people in the city lived within a half-mile of fresh food. Now we’re up to 75%.

“This administration wants to make sure we have healthy communities, which means adding grocery stores,” he said.

A large produce section along and full-service deli as illustrated here will be what people see when entering the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Vine City. The store will sell meat and dairy and have a bakery. Household supplies and personal items will also be available. (Walmart)

The City Council recently approved the mayor’s request to allocate $1.5 million to Invest Atlanta, the economic development arm of the city. Invest Atlanta will use the funds to offer tax breaks to attract supermarkets offering fresh food and creating jobs to underserved communities, especially Black and Brown communities on the South side of the city.

“Walmart is going to take advantage of the incentive for this store and other stores I’m hoping that we get on the South side,” Dickens said.

The Vine City Walmart will be the first Neighborhood Market out of hundreds across the country to have a police substation. The substation will not be occupied at all hours, but will be a place for officers to fill out paperwork, hold meetings, or charge their phones or body cameras, the mayor said.

Most importantly, the presence of the APD substation should make people think twice before shoplifting or committing some other crime, he added.

“After talking with the Merchants Association on MLK and Clark University and other people in the neighborhood, folks were saying they want to see more police presence,” Dickens said.

The goal is to keep people safe, but also to make sure shrinkage — the loss of inventory from theft or damage – does not hurt Walmart’s bottom line so “they don’t want to stay here anymore,” he said.

Walmart officials said the Vine City store would employ about 130 people and starting pay is $14 for entry-level positions.

The existing building is 75,000 square feet. About 60,000 square feet is expected to be used for the Neighborhood Market. The remaining 15,000 square feet is planned to be a fulfillment center to provide more delivery and pick-up services.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.