Steakburger site to be redeveloped

Iconic restaurant will be demolished as soon as June; four commercial buildings, Fred Meyer fueling station, new McDonald's to be built

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Plans are moving forward for a summer start to demolish and redevelop the iconic Steakburger restaurant site and its adjoining miniature golf course.

The work will be part of several projects that make up a two-block makeover to construct four new commercial buildings, rebuild the McDonald's restaurant, add a new Dutch Bros. Coffee kiosk and replace a building with a Fred Meyer fueling station.

The new developments are earmarked for a swath of property wedged between Interstate 5 and Northeast Highway 99 from 71st to 73rd streets. The old Steakburger venue will be replaced by a $5 million project that includes the four buildings, two of which will be drive-through restaurants, said Mike Jenkins, of Vancouver-based MAJ Development Corp., the project's developer.

He credited the county's 100 percent waiver of traffic impact and permitting fees for making the project pencil out. The measure saved him about $1 million in county fees, said Jenkins, who expects to start demolishing the Steakburger in June.

"We should have the permits by May," he said. Jenkins has four tenants lined up for the property he is in the midst of purchasing for an undisclosed price from longtime owner-operators Bob and Merilyn Condon.

The Steakburger's husband-and-wife owners have been trying to sell the restaurant's 2.3-acre site for several years, saying they would like to retire. They've seen previous offers disappear due to the slumping economy and a county-issued edict aimed at making Highway 99 less dominated by developments that cater to the automobile.

New county rules call for a reduction of bland, box-shaped buildings and fewer asphalt deserts, with more green spaces that are pedestrian and bicycle friendly. The trouble with those rules is that their price tag can make the difference between whether a project moves forward or languishes, especially in the redevelopment of smaller sites, said Jenkins.

Jenkins, a seasoned developer of small retail projects, is the preferred West Coast developer for Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc. His company has so far developed more than 50 convenience stores for 7-Eleven, some with attached retail projects, including several stores in Clark County.

Signed tenants for Jenkins' project include two quick-service restaurants in separate buildings with drive-through windows. Two additional buildings — a 4,000-square-foot structure and a 5,000-square-foot structure — will be situated with the backs of the buildings facing I-5. Part of the redevelopment includes tearing down an existing office building on the northwest corner of the Steakburger site to accommodate the larger of the two structures. It will house an urgency care clinic and a national dental care service.

Potential occupants have not yet been signed on for the smaller building, Jenkins said. He would not disclose the names of the health care or restaurant tenants, but said the businesses are recognizable brands.

Jenkins expects to sell a slice of the Steakburger site's southern-most border to owners of the McDonald's restaurant, the McDonald's Corp. of Columbus, Ohio. The company hopes to develop a double-lane drive-through for a new restaurant it will build after tearing down its existing building, Jenkins said.

No start date has been set to build the McDonald's, according to operators of the restaurant, part of a chain owned by Vancouver-based North Star Restaurants Inc. "It's still a work in progress," said Michelle Safo, a consultant to North Star from Davis Elin Advertising.

Dutch Bros. Coffee also plans to develop a drive-through coffee kiosk on a half-acre site that touches the Steakburger property.

The 450-square-foot coffee venue will include a double-lane drive-through and some outdoor seating, said Kenny Stromer, the project's developer. Stromer owns two additional Dutch Bros. Coffee stands off East Fourth Plain Boulevard and off Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard near Interstate 205. Stromer expects the Highway 99 site will be visible to I-5 traffic. It may also appeal to commuters on Highway 99, which has a dearth of drive-through coffee venues.

"There are a lot of residents around there," Stromer said.

Hazel Dell includes a five-mile radius of households earning an average income of $66,624 annually, according to statistics by Sites-USA.

The Dutch Bros. drive-through is planned for a site just south of the Salvation Army's resale store, a building owned by Fred Meyer. But new plans are in the works for a Fred Meyer fueling station to replace the Salvation Army store, slated for demolition.

The Salvation Army has been notified and is making plans to move out, said Melinda Merrill, a spokeswoman for Portland-based Fred Meyer. She said the company continues to develop new fueling stations attached to its one-stop variety and grocery store sites, whenever possible. The canopied, multi-unit stations help the company boost store visits and are part of a strategy to increase customer options, Merrill said.

"It's a really great addition to our offerings," she said. Fred Meyer, owned by Cincinnati-based Kroger, now operates 92 fueling stations at or near almost all of the company's 132 stores.

Merrill expects the Hazel Dell fueling station will be open this fall, along with a gas station at the company's Salmon Creek store.

Merrill said Fred Meyer's decision to develop its fueling stations was not influenced by the county's fee waivers, although the measure creates a substantial savings -- about $500,000 for each station in Hazel Dell and Salmon Creek -- for the company as the projects move forward.

That's not surprising, said Marty Snell, director of Clark County's Community Development Department. He sees the resolution as one that helps smaller projects with fees that can range from $25,000 to $300,000.

But it's different for corporations, such as Fred Meyer, Snell said. "They have the budgets for these kinds of fees," he said.

The county's three-member board of commissioners did away with the fees in 2010 as a post-recession emergency measure and have approved an extension every year since then. On Jan. 7, they voted 3-0 to do so for another year.

The county's general fund now gets tapped for revenue that would have come from the permitting fees.

Traffic improvement fees, one-time charges that pay for infrastructure related to development, are replaced by dipping into the county's road fund, two-thirds of which goes to public safety.