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Design under way for old Wal-Mart renovations

The deserted Wal-Mart near Clyde will be hardly recognizable once Haywood County is through with its makeover of the megastore.

Sunlight will stream in through 30 skylights scattered across the low-slung ceiling of the former big-box store. A new metal roof will cover the front 25 feet of the building, with a mountain vernacular style entrance supplanting the once mundane building facade.

The made-over building will be a far cry from the cramped and crumbling offices that currently house the Department of Social Services and Health Department, which will relocate to the new site.

A $6.1 million renovation will transform the once gaping interior space into “little communities,” according to project architect Scott Donald with Asheville-based Padgett and Freeman Architects, PA.

The renovated space will include a shared entrance lobby, health clinic, Meals on Wheels kitchen, dental clinic, W.I.C. area, along with offices for more than 200 social workers.

Also included in the preliminary design is space for a central permitting office, including planning, erosion, building inspections and environmental health.

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County commissioners voted to purchase the vacant big-box for $6.6 million in January. Architects estimate the renovations will cost another $6.1 million to retrofit the nearly 100,000 square feet of space.

Plans are still in the early stages. Commissioners will sign off on a design by fall and send the project out to bid. Construction could be completed by summer 2011.

Commissioners say the old Wal-Mart is a bargain to solve a problem that could no longer be ignored. DSS was fed up with leaky roofs, frozen pipes and cramped office space, as well as the lack of space and confidentiality at their offices, which date as far back as the 1920s. Facility inspections landed Haywood’s DSS building in the bottom 1 percent of 70 DSS facilities throughout the state.

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