Vancouver Plaza courts new tenants

Dick’s Sporting Goods, Wal-Mart could fill vacancies; no deals done yet

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Owners of Vancouver Plaza say negotiations are under way that could bring Dick’s Sporting Goods, new restaurants, and even a small Walmart store into the shopping complex — though deals to bring those stores have not yet been inked.

As it turns out, the shopping center’s former WinCo Foods grocery store site just might be the perfect size for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s new smaller-market store model, speculated one local retail expert.

“It would fit into half of the WinCo space and the developer would develop the rest,” for other tenants, said Deborah Ewing, vice president of Eric Fuller & Associates Inc. commercial real estate firm in Vancouver.

New tenants at Vancouver Plaza, located at the southwest corner of state Highway 500 and Thurston Way, would trigger a multi-million dollar face-lift on the half-empty shopping center. But that would depend on which retailers signed on, said Donald DeSalvo, general partner of The Cafaro Northwest Partnership, owners of the 21-year-old center.

He expects to make an announcement within 60 to 90 days about stores that will join Vancouver Plaza anchors Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and Harbor Freight.

“Something is going to happen very quickly,” said DeSalvo, who oversees the regional arm of Ohio-based Cafaro Co. The firm owns a portfolio of between 80 and 100 shopping centers in 17 states.

But renovations to Vancouver Plaza won’t start without signed agreements in hand for much of the 70,000 to 80,000-square-feet of vacancies in the 150,000-square-foot center. The largest hole is the former home of a WinCo Foods, which moved to its own nearby stand-alone site in 2008.

Since then, DeSalvo said he has searched extensively for another grocery store tenant.

“The challenge is trying to find someone who’s not already in that market (area),” DeSalvo said.

Ewing said Wal-Mart’s new express model would fit well in the former WinCo space. It also would make a lot of sense, location-wise, she said.

Although the Bentonville, Ark.-based variety chain operates three of its 110,000- to 240,000-square-foot SuperCenter stores in Vancouver, the company does not have a central location near Westfield Vancouver mall.

“It would be logical if you look at the trade area,” Ewing said.

Wal-Mart did not respond to an email inquiry seeking comment.

A host of other retailers have shown interest in the center, DeSalvo said. Among them is Dick’s Sporting Goods, which opened its first regional store in 2010 at Delta Park off of Interstate 5 in Portland.

The sports chain also recently opened a store in Cafaro’s Puyallup-based South Hill Mall.

“They provide a very good platform for the casual sportsman,” DeSalvo said.

His company is also talking with at least two restaurant chains that could take up empty space in former Newport Bay and T.G.I. Friday’s, venues that both shuttered in 2009.

DeSalvo does not expect Vancouver Plaza construction to start for at least six to eight months.