This past week, it was revealed that Ocean's 18 Family Fun Center and Body Works Gym and Spa had been issued eviction notices. They were the last two businesses remaining in the rear portion of the plaza that previously housed Flagship Cinemas until its closure last August, and they both need to vacate by May 15.

This has led to increased speculation about what new businesses might be looking to move into the location. One of the most popular--and logical--rumors is that Walmart is interested in opening a location there. In his weekly appearance on WBSM, Mayor Jon Mitchell said he "doesn't have a crystal ball" about future plans for the site.

"I don't know what's happening there, except there have been rumors about a big box development there for some years, which stands to reason," he said. "So Walmart has come up from time to time, but I don't know how much credence to put into that."

Neither Walmart nor the plaza's owners, Cedar Realty Trust, have approached the city officially about the chain opening a location in New Bedford.

"A couple of years ago, one of Walmart's attorneys said there was interest. But that was two years ago, and nothing's happened," Mitchell said. "But Walmart has the market clout to come in and make something happen really quickly."

Mitchell said he thinks the plaza's proximity to the highway and large parcel of land will make it attractive to a lot of potential retailers.

"Hopefully we're going to get something. I think it's a marketable site, and we'll see what happens," he said. "There are a lot of economic development projects in the city that I have a pretty good sense of what's happening, but that's not one of them."

However, a city official speaking on the condition of anonymity confirmed to WBSM News a Walmart will take up residence at that site at some point in the future.

Mitchell said that if Walmart was to come to the city, he would have some expectations.

"I don't think we'd give Walmart or any major retailer a tax break. I don't think that's a good idea for retail," he said. "What I'd expect is they'd give city residents a first look for jobs, that's a big part of my expectations, and give veterans a first look. And that they would be sensitive about the need to have a diverse workforce. Minority hiring is important to me."

The mayor also said that he hopes Ocean's 18 and Body Works will continue to remain in business at other locations in New Bedford.

"I'd like to see if there's a way we can help them out," he said. "If they need help relocating in the city, they should call the Economic Development Council. If they haven't reached out already, I'm sure the EDC will reach out soon to those businesses."

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