Whats Up with That? Wal-Mart's county plans remain mystery

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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There was an article a while back about Wal-Mart putting in a grocery-only store in the old Fred Meyer building on Grand and Fourth Plain boulevards. We very badly need a grocery store in that area. What's up with that — and when?

— Florence Roland, Truman neighborhood

It's one of those eternal questions, Florence: Why do abandoned properties take so long to get redeveloped? When does the hugest retailer in the universe get on with it?

Wal-Mart plays its cards notoriously close to its chest, so it's a little hard to answer the latter question. (The former is answered easily enough: Developers and businesses of all sorts are moving slowly these days thanks to the ongoing economic downturn.)

In May, we reported that Wal-Mart does, indeed, plan to move ahead with a store out on Fourth Plain at Northeast 143rd Avenue, where a prominent "coming soon" sign has been testing credulity for years now.

Yeah, but when?

"We do not have anything further to announce at this time," a spokeperson said.

There's even less to say about Grand Avenue property. Wal-Mart's property developer, PacLand, has applied to demolish the former Fred Meyer building there and build a 42,000-square-foot grocery store -- about half the size of the Fred Meyer building. Permits have not been issued.

Another store is aimed for Northeast 134th Street, just around the corner from the campus of Washington State University Vancouver. The property is owned by Wal-Mart already, and controversy over those plans led to a lawsuit that was settled in Wal-Mart's favor in 2010.

Since then, nothing.

Wal-Mart has requested a permit to start work on a store in Portland's Hayden Meadows area, just south of the Interstate 5 Bridge. A spokesperson said no construction start date has been scheduled.

Got a question about your neighborhood? We'll get it answered. Send "What's Up With That?" questions to neighbors@columbian.com.