Grocery store planned for old Fred Meyer site

Existing building to be razed; Walmart store may replace it

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 

Update

Previously: Fred Meyer closed its Vancouver store at Fourth Plain and Grand boulevards in April 2008 and sold the property to S.J. Amoroso Properties Co., based in Redwood Shores, Calif.

What’s new: Amoroso and

PacLand, a frequent Walmart store developer, are proposing to demolish the vacant, 83,000-square-foot building and construct a 42,000-square-foot grocery store. A second pad would accommodate a future 4,500-square-foot fast-food restaurant.

What’s next: The City of Vancouver is accepting public comments until 4 p.m. Sept. 26. Send to Patti McEllrath, associate planner, Community & Economic Development Department, P.O. Box 1995, Vancouver, WA 98668 or by email to patti.mcellrath@cityofvancouver.us. If approved, the project will be up for engineering review.

Plans to redevelop the vacant Fred Meyer site at Fourth Plain and Grand boulevards could soon result in bringing groceries to a Vancouver neighborhood that has sorely lacked access to fresh foods.

But no company name is attached to a proposal submitted to the city to tear down the old store and build a 42,000-square-foot grocery store on the site. Two clues point to Walmart, which is steadily increasing its presence in the Vancouver-Portland area.

One is that the listed applicant, PacLand, commonly develops Walmart stores in the local area. Another is that the proposed store's size matches Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s 42,000- to 43,000-square-foot Walmart Neighborhood Market concept. Those stores, smaller than the much-larger Walmart SuperCenters, carry fresh produce, meats, groceries and household items.

Walmart officials had no comment on Tuesday. However, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. last month confirmed that it will bring a similar market-style store to the long-vacant WinCo Foods site in the Vancouver Plaza shopping center off state Highway 500 and Thurston Way. That store is slated to open in the second half of 2013.

The area around the vacant Fred Meyer tract has been designated a "food desert," a term used to describe neighborhoods without full-service food stores within one mile. Fred Meyer vacated the store in 2008 when it opened its store off state Highway 14 at Grand and Columbia House boulevards, just over one mile away.

At the time Fred Meyer sold the old site, company officials imposed a covenant that buyers would not develop grocery or pharmacy services on the old store site for a number of years.

"That deadline has passed," said Chad Eiken, Vancouver's community and economic development director.

Eiken said it is not unusual for a developer to conceal the identity of its anchor retailers.

"Our codes don't differentiate between one or the other. It's a grocery store," he said, adding that the site's redevelopment will likely discourage urban blight in one of the city's most underdeveloped sectors,

The city adopted a subarea development plan for Fourth Plain Boulevard in 2007, aiming for pedestrian and infrastructure improvements to the inner-city corridor from St. Johns Boulevard east to Burton Road.

"But the city doesn't have the transportation dollars, so we're not able to make those improvements," Eiken said.

Fourth Plain also is part of the route proposed for lanes dedicated to a bus-rapid transit system between downtown and the Westfield Vancouver mall. C-Tran has asked voters to approve the project on the November ballot as part of a sales tax increase proposed in Proposition 1.

Bus-rapid transit and the Fred Meyer site redevelopment could eventually spur

activity on other properties, although it will take time, said Pam Lindloff, an associate vice president with NAI Norris Beggs & Simpson in Vancouver,

"Any time there is a development that brings people into the area, it has a good chance of being successful," she said.

If the proposed Fourth Plain development turns out to be a Walmart, Lindloff predicted its volume-discount-based business would flourish in the area, which the city has called one of the most economically distressed census tracts within Vancouver.

"If it's a Walmart, it's very appropriate for the demographics. I think its exciting," she said, adding that the store would also draw shoppers from a wider region, including downtown residents and Fourth Plain commuters.