by: File photo Neighbors are looking forward to a business locating in the long-empty former QFC building at Southwest Highland and Powell Boulevard.

Walmart, the nation's retail giant, has applied for a building permit to turn a shuttered QFC into one of the chain's scaled-down markets.

The Bentonville, Ark.,-based retailer applied for the building permit on July 4 to renovate an existing 40,142-square-foot building at 3900 W. Powell Blvd., on the southwest corner of Powell and Southwest Highland Drive.

The application lists the project name as 'Walmart Market' and describes the work to be done as tenant improvement in a former mercantile store. As such, no public hearings on the application are required.

Gresham's permit staff is still reviewing the application.

Suzan Wells, president of the Southwest Gresham Neighborhood Association, which successfully prevented Walmart from building a supercenter at the same site five years ago, said the association will not challenge the application.

First, the application process doesn't allow for public input because Walmart and QFC are the same use, mercantile, with the former occupying the latter's old building.

Secondly, there would be no new construction or expansion. The Walmart Market would use the old building's existing footprint.

But thirdly, neighbors overall are just happy to see something being done with the building, which has sat vacant for years.

'It's a good use of that building,' Wells said. 'It's better than a vacant building.'

Besides, 'everybody's kind of curious to know what it is,' she said.

Although Walmart is known for its Supercenters, which average about 185,000 square feet, Walmart seems to be focusing now on launching more of the company's smaller Neighborhood Markets.

Neighborhood Markets appear to be about 40,000 square feet and carry groceries, deli foods and bakery items, pet and household supplies, plus paper goods. They also include drive-through pharmacies and one-hour photo finishing.

Walmart Neighborhood Markets debuted in 1998 and now total about 180.

Recent news reports indicate that Walmart plans to open as many as 17 new stores throughout the Portland area.

The Lake Oswego Review and West Linn Tidings this month reported that Walmart Neighborhood Markets will take the place of two closed grocery stores in Lake Grove and West Linn.

Walmart also recently purchased a closed grocery store and an old furniture store in Beaverton. And last week, Walmart applied for permits needed to create a Neighborhood Market at property in West Linn's Robinwood Shopping Center.

The chain has 31 locations in Oregon and employs more than 10,000 people across the state. The Neighborhood Markets would be the first of their kind in Oregon.

Although Gresham residents five years ago fought off the proposed Walmart Supercenter on the grounds that it would generate more traffic than the nearest major intersection could handle, Wells isn't worried about that with the smaller market.

'Any new business will bring more traffic, but we expect it to be a normal level,' she said. 'It may add a little bit more traffic, but it should be from people in the neighborhood.'

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