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Dec. 4, 2020

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Vancouver’s Sifton Market takes shape 3 years after razed by arson

Developer builds at site of arson, plans convenience store, gas station

By , Columbian business reporter
4 Photos
A sign honors the memory of Amy Hooser at the location of the former Sifton Market. Hooser was working an early morning shift at Sifton Market when she was killed in 2017 by Mitchell Heng, who also set the building on fire.
A sign honors the memory of Amy Hooser at the location of the former Sifton Market. Hooser was working an early morning shift at Sifton Market when she was killed in 2017 by Mitchell Heng, who also set the building on fire. (Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The Sifton Market is set to return, nearly three years after the strip mall building was destroyed in an arson fire that claimed the life of one of its employees.

The property at 13412 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd. has remained fenced off since the January 2017 blaze, but in recent months there have been signs of construction at the site, and the wood framing of a new market building has taken shape. A sign near the fencing advertises retail and service space available for lease.

The revival project comes from Portland-based Lindquist Development Co., which purchased the building from its prior owner. Company president Stu Lindquist said his goal is to restore the property to its neighborhood market role.

“It’s going to be similar to what was there,” he said. “It’s a service station with a little market and some additional spaces for businesses.”

The plan includes reopening the gas station, which won’t involve a substantial amount of new construction. The pumps and canopy are detached from the main building and didn’t get caught up in the fire.

The gas station previously operated as a Texaco. It had to close after the fire, Lindquist said, because with the market burned down, there was no cashier counter for the gas pumps. Lindquist said he doesn’t know yet what brand will occupy the pump station when it reopens.

The nearby building, which featured a convenience store called the Oasis Market and a trio of other business suites, is being rebuilt almost from scratch, Lindquist said. Very little of the original building was still in usable condition.

“Just the concrete floor, basically,” he said.

Lindquist Development is a commercial redevelopment company whose portfolio includes residential apartments and other commercial business buildings, including the Black Angus Steakhouse near Interstate 5 in Vancouver.

The company began the rebuilding process for the Sifton Market in January, he said, but the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic stretched out the project timeline, in part because it made the permitting process take longer. The property doesn’t have a scheduled reopening date yet, he said, again due to pandemic-related uncertainties.

“The virus really held things up,” he said.

Once the project is finished, Lindquist said he hopes the return of the market can revitalize the surrounding area.

Long history

The previous incarnation of the Sifton Market site included the Texaco gas station, the Oasis Market convenience store, a barber shop, a pet supply store and a pet grooming business.

The fire began in the early hours of Jan. 15, 2017. The body of Oasis Food Mart employee Amy Marie Hooser was found among the debris. An autopsy showed she died of blunt force trauma and smoke inhalation.

Based on evidence at the scene, investigators quickly concluded that the blaze originated from one or more fires that were intentionally set inside the store. Vancouver resident Mitchell Heng was later arrested in connection with the fire and charged with murder, robbery and arson.

Heng’s trial was held in September 2019. He was convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree arson, but acquitted of the robbery charge. He was sentenced the following month to more than 31 years in prison.

The store’s previous owner, Tom Ranck, indicated in late 2017 that he planned to rebuild and reopen. However, Ranck later told the Columbian that he had decided to sell the property to a new owner to be rebuilt, and listed it for sale in August 2018.

Ranck said his decision was based in part on the time required to obtain permits from Clark County. The building had been underinsured, he told the Columbian at the time, and the money didn’t last long enough for him to get through the permitting process.

Reached via email Tuesday, Ranck said “I wish only the best for the neighborhood and the future of the project.”