UPDATE: Walmart store coming to former WinCo site

WalMart to bring "Neighborhood Market" to Vancouver Plaza

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter



Wal-Mart in Clark County

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. operates three stores in Vancouver. They are:

• A 208.846-square-foot Walmart SuperCenter that opened in 1998 at 221 N.E. 104th Ave., Vancouver, near Interstate 205 off Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard.

• A smaller Hazel Dell store opened in 2001 and a third store — a SuperCenter — off 192nd Avenue and Mill Plain Boulevard opened in 2005.

In addition, Wal-Mart long ago announced plans for a Clark County store at Birtcher Business Center's planned Eastgate Plaza shopping center, near Fourth Plain Road and 143rd Avenue.

Wal-Mart is rumored to be considering plans for a 42,000-square-foot grocery store to replace the vacant Fred Meyer at Fourth Plain and Grand boulevards.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Tuesday announced plans to bring its smaller grocery store concept to a long-vacant WinCo Foods store off state Highway 500 and Thurston Way in the Vancouver Plaza shopping center.

The planned Walmart Neighborhood Market will be much smaller than the Bentonville, Ark.-based company's big-box supercenters. At 43,000 square feet, the planned Walmart store won't even take up the footprint of its predecessor, WinCo Foods, which operated in about 70,000 square feet at that location before it closed the site and moved to another location in 2008.

"The remainder of the space will be for another tenant," which has not been announced, said Joe Bell, a spokesman for Ohio-based Cafaro Co., which owns Vancouver Plaza.

Wal-Mart expects the new store to open in fall 2013 with jobs for approximately 95 people. It will offer primarily grocery and household items.

Grocery sales continue to command a larger share of the retail market, said Pam Lindloff, an associate vice president with NAI Norris Beggs & Simpson in Vancouver, which specializes in marketing retail space. "There's been more emphasis in the media on cooking healthy at home," Lindloff said, which has given rise to higher-end organic food stores, market-store concepts at mid-priced grocery chains, as well as volume discounter Walmart's Neighborhood Market concept.

"Healthy cooking doesn't have to mean expensive," Lindloff said.

Walmart officials chose the site to serve residents near Vancouver Plaza in the central Fourth Plain corridor who don't have an abundance of grocery store options, said Matti Havener, Walmart's senior director and regional general manager for Washington and Oregon. "We think our new location will provide a much-needed solution for fresh, healthy and affordable groceries," she said in a written statement.

Calls to the company were not returned.

Although WinCo Foods is still represented in the area, having moved just a few blocks south of its old location, several other stores have left the area altogether. Among them, Fred Meyer vacated its store at Grand and Fourth Plain boulevards in 2008 to reopen about one mile south along state Highway 14. Safeway also closed its longtime location at Andresen Road and Fourth Plain, a site that now houses a fitness club.

Activists have tried for years to lure new stores to the area.

Meanwhile, more affluent east Vancouver shoppers can choose from a variety of chains and New Seasons Market, Trader Joe's and Chuck's Produce and Street Market.

Bell said the Cafaro company plans to invest several million dollars in a face-lift for the entire Vancouver Plaza retail complex, which is home to anchor stores such as Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and a Regal Cinema multiplex theater.

"We'll be refacing and refurbishing the entire center," with new facades, stone columns and resurfaced parking areas, he said.

Bell expects Walmart's announcement will be followed with news from other new retailers who are planning to locate in the center. He said plans include tenants for the vacant TGI Friday's and Newport Bay restaurants, as well as the former Steve and Barry's apparel store site.

"At this point, there are discussions in the works for all of those spaces," he said.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., branded as Walmart since 2008, is the world's largest retailer with about 10,300 stores in 27 countries. The company finished the three-month period ending in June showing between 3 percent and 4 percent growth over the previous year, it reported earlier this month. By comparison, sales rose 6.2 percent in the first quarter compared with a year earlier.