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News / Clark County News

Portland’s Adams may be warming to Walmart

Mayor appears open to Delta Park store

By Cami Joner
Published: December 25, 2009, 12:00am

o Previously: Walmart’s attempts to put a store in north Portland previously have been met with resistance from Portland Mayor Sam Adams.

o What’s new: Adams appears open to a store at Delta Park, south of Vancouver off Interstate 5.

o What’s next: Vancouver Mayor-elect Tim Leavitt says the store could attract Clark County shoppers and siphon off retail sales tax dollars.

After strong resistance, Portland Mayor Sam Adams may finally say, “Welcome to Walmart,” with a thumb’s-up to the company’s proposed Delta Park store off of Interstate 5 in Portland.

o Previously: Walmart's attempts to put a store in north Portland previously have been met with resistance from Portland Mayor Sam Adams.

o What's new: Adams appears open to a store at Delta Park, south of Vancouver off Interstate 5.

o What's next: Vancouver Mayor-elect Tim Leavitt says the store could attract Clark County shoppers and siphon off retail sales tax dollars.

That’s fine with Vancouver Mayor-elect Tim Leavitt, as long as Clark County residents don’t shop there to avoid paying Washington state sales taxes.

“Every time a purchase is made south of the Columbia River, our community loses out on sales tax revenues,” said Leavitt, who will be sworn in Jan. 4 for his first four-year term as Vancouver mayor.

Portland officials, including Adams, appear open to Walmart’s proposed plans for an 86,000-square-foot Delta Park store, said Bill Wertz, Walmart’s regional director of media. He said it would be smaller than the typical “SuperCenter” stores built by the Bentonville, Ark.-based company.

“This store will have a full line of groceries, but not a garden center” or tire and lube center,” Wertz said.

No start date for construction has been set.

The store site, formerly home to two furniture stores, is north of the Fisherman’s Marine & Outdoor store and Lowe’s. It is owned by Portland developer Tom Moyer’s TMT Development and includes space formerly occupied by Joe’s sporting goods, which closed in April. The Joe’s space will be redeveloped by Dick’s Sporting Goods, which expects to open a store there in 2010.

Leavitt said Clark County is already “well-served” by Walmart, which operates three stores here — two in Vancouver and one in Hazel Dell. The company long has had plans to build stores in Salmon Creek and Orchards. It broke ground this year on a new store in Woodland.

“I certainly have no role in land-use south of the river. I will leave those decisions up to Mayor Adams,” Leavitt said.

Adams has long been a staunch opponent of Walmart and its business practices, which in part, is why the company only operates one store in Portland off Southeast 82nd Avenue. In 2006, Walmart withdrew plans for a store on Hayden Island on the site of the former Red Lion Thunderbird Hotel.

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But on Wednesday, Walmart officials visited Adams to gently break the news of their planned store at Delta Park, said Wertz, of Walmart. It was the third such meeting this year.

“We’ve worked hard on our relationship with the mayor and we wanted him to know about it (the planned store) from us,” said Wertz.

The mood of the meeting was “cordial,” Wertz said.

Some said the Portland Mayor may be having a change of heart due to the prolonged local and national economic recession. Mega-retailer Walmart is one of the few national chains adding stores, while others can’t get loans for expansion, said Eric Fuller, broker and president of Vancouver-based Eric Fuller & Associates Inc. commercial real estate firm. Walmart’s plans could bring much-needed construction jobs to the area at first. It would add service jobs later, he said.

“Show me a Walmart store and I’ll show you a full parking lot,” Fuller said.

North Portland draw

Others said that most of the customers of the proposed Delta Park store would likely come from North Portland.

“Of course, they want to appeal to the clientele from both sides of the river,” said Bob Bernhardt, a co-owner and associate broker with Coldwell Banker Commercial Jenkins Bernhardt Associates in Vancouver. “But you can’t minimize that whole area of North Portland, everything from at least from Alberta Street northward. The area really needs a general goods store.” Bernhardt said.

However, Bernhardt agreed that a new Delta Park Walmart could siphon away sales tax revenues from Clark County.

“For Portland, it’s a good thing. For Vancouver, I always hate to see sales tax dollars fly out of Clark County. But that’s the way it is, it’s a fact of life here,” he said.

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