As fitness giant develops complex, Whole Foods shows interest in area

While Whole Foods Inc. hungers for a second Portland market somewhere on Northeast Sandy Boulevard, a deserted lumberyard in the Hollywood District is getting pumped up for a new development anchored by a 24 Hour Fitness outlet.

Building permits for the fitness center development are expected to be filed in the coming days, according to city planners, but the shape of the project already is emerging.

The 24 Hour Fitness center would be about 35,000 square feet and would include a pool. It would replace a much smaller club currently operating at 4121 N.E. Halsey St. The multimillion-dollar project, taking up the former Copeland Lumber site at Northeast 43rd Avenue and Halsey Street, also would have up to 87,000 square feet of office space and 10,000 square feet of retail built in phases.

'The office space will be very welcome,' said Debbie Bischoff, the city's senior planner for Northeast Portland. 'Hollywood needs the jobs, and it's right at light rail and the transit station, so transportation is great there.'

The project, which developer Dorn Platz said should be done by November, will make available more developable land within the district: When the fitness club moves across the street from its current location, that site will open up.

Another piece of the Hollywood development puzzle yet to be defined involves the Washington Mutual branch at 4333 N.E. Sandy Blvd. Bank officials declined to comment on future plans, but the block has been a focus of discussion for years.

Paul Clark, a longtime real estate agent and Hollywood business booster, said there's been a lot of talk about what might come to the location. Project ideas usually include a grocery store, a new Washington Mutual branch and about 40 housing units.

The chain name most often linked to such a project is Whole Foods, an Austin, Texas-based retailer of gourmet and organic fare. Whole Foods' Pearl District store has been open almost three years and enjoyed success in that location.

Whole Foods officials acknowledged interest in a second Portland-area store, but they declined to directly address the Hollywood site. The Whole Foods Web site lists a 40,200-square-foot store on Northeast Sandy Boulevard as 'under development.'

Gerding/Edlen Development Co. also reportedly has its eye on the bank site.

'We are looking at several opportunities in the area, but that is it,' Whole Foods spokeswoman Jolyn Warford said from company headquarters in Austin.

While a situation like the Washington Mutual site might normally simmer for years, an element of the Hollywood District's zoning rules is applying some pressure. Drive-through lanes at banks and fast-food outlets are being phased out to make the area more storefront oriented. Under current rules, existing drive-throughs can remain as nonconforming uses, but if a company does a major remodel or closes its drive-through, the company can't reopen it.

But there is some wiggle room in the ordinance. If a developer acts by May 5, according to Bischoff, and makes the drive-through part of a larger, mixed-use project, it can remain.

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