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Wal-Mart site gets a fresh start

Now that the furious fight over a Wal-Mart in southwest Gresham is a fading memory, the question remains of what to do with the vacant site that Wal-Mart intended to occupy.

The retail giant, whose plans were rejected last year by a city hearings officer, still owns the property near the intersection of Southeast 182nd Avenue and Powell Boulevard. But Wal-Mart now has a contract to sell the land, which houses an abandoned QFC grocery store.

Plans being developed by the buyer, Real Property Resources, call for the old QFC building to be utilized by a new tenant and for construction of six additional retail stores and an office building. Based on what we've heard so far, the proposal probably won't generate the same community resistance that Wal-Mart did.

The issues surrounding Wal-Mart were varied and emotional. They ranged from concerns about Wal-Mart's effect on smaller, existing stores to objections from labor unions over Wal-Mart's employment practices.

Those types of arguments are unlikely to surface as Real Property Resources moves forward with its proposal, but the main issue that must be resolved is the one that tripped up Wal-Mart in the end - traffic. Much will depend, as before, on traffic studies that determine what impact the new development would have on the intersection of 182nd and Powell.

It seems likely that the latest proposed development would generate fewer car trips during peak times than a Wal-Mart. But the city still must be careful to consider the ramifications on an intersection that functions poorly already.

Despite all the fuss about Wal-Mart and the generalized criticisms of the company, it really was the matter of traffic - and by extension, collective concerns about community livability - that kept the company away.