Plans hint at possible Walmart grocery in Vancouver

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Could a smaller Walmart grocery store be coming soon to the corner of Fourth Plain and Grand boulevards in Vancouver?

The evidence suggests it’s a good possibility, based on plans submitted to the city to build a 42,000-square-foot grocery store to replace the vacant Fred Meyer at Fourth Plain and Grand. The applicant, Seattle-based PacLand, is the same developer that is now transforming an empty Washington County, Ore., Ashley Furniture store into a smaller Walmart.

A spokesman for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said in an email that the company does not have any announcements to make about new Clark County developments. He did not answer questions about whether the company had plans for the Vancouver site, which is in an area ripe for grocery store development.

While east Vancouver shoppers have abundant grocery store choices, including newcomer New Seasons Market set to move in next month, Vancouver’s central Fourth Plain corridor residents face grocery deserts. Activists have tried for years to lure new stores.

“Is there a pent-up demand for a grocery store serving that sub-market? Absolutely yes,” said Eric Fuller, a commercial real estate broker with Eric Fuller and Associates Inc. in Vancouver.

PacLand proposes to build a 42,000-square-foot grocery store on the former Fred Meyer site after it demolishes the 83,000-square-foot building, vacant for nearly five years. The northwest corner of the site would be set aside for a possible future business.

The square footage fits Walmart’s Neighborhood Market-size concept. PacLand also plans to improve the old parking lot. The proposed store at 2201 Grand Blvd. would operate 24 hours a day, including weekends, according to planning documents.

The former Fred Meyer site was purchased in 2008 by S.J. Amoroso Properties Co., based in Redwood Shores, Calif. The company still owns the site, for which it paid $4.7 million. When Amoroso Properties bought the site, a deed restriction stipulated that another grocery store could not locate there for five years.

Fuller estimated that plans submitted for the Vancouver site would carry a construction cost of about $5 million, and that the store could open right around the time that the deed restriction expires.

Walmart Neighborhood Market stores are generally 30,000 to 40,000 square feet, primarily focused on groceries, and operate for 24 hours, according to trade publication Drug Store News.

Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo said the company hopes to build more stores in the neighborhood market format, which has been in existence since 1998.

“We currently have about 155 locations across the country and hope to double that number nationally by 2013,” he said in an email.

PacLand is developing a similar concept in Beaverton, Ore., according to reports in the Beaverton Valley Times.

In addition to possible plans for a store at Fourth Plain and Grand, Walmart operates three of its super-center concept stores in Clark County and has plans on the books for two more big-box stores.

If you live or work near the proposed grocery store, or have visited a Walmart Neighborhood Market elsewhere in the country, The Columbian is interested in hearing about your views and experiences. Comment below or email reporter Cami Joner at cami.joner@columbian.com.