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Walmart property purchase fuels rumors

Company is not revealing plans for its second possible store in Beaverton
by: Christina Lent A Walmart spokeswoman said the retailer has no specific plans for its newly acquired property on Murray Boulevard in the Sexton Mountain neighborhood.

Carlin Irish enjoys the relative tranquility that living on a cul-de-sac offers.

He's increasingly concerned, however, that Brockman Street - the arterial that leads to his residential enclave - is well on its way to major congestion.

If, as rumors are beginning to circulate, a certain well-known retail giant were to open a store at the former Haggen Food and Pharmacy site at 9055 S.W. Murray Blvd. in Sexton Mountain, Irish imagines gridlock will choke the thoroughfare sooner rather than later.

'Boy, if there's a Walmart retail store there, lookout,' he said. 'It's gonna be Interstate Brockman.'

But before he gets too excited, Carlin says he's willing to wait to hear official plans for the site that Walmart purchased in late April.

Tiffany Moffatt, a Walmart spokeswoman, says the retailer has 'no specifics to share at this point regarding our plans for this location.'

Walmart, she added, is meanwhile preparing a permit application to modify the former Ashley Furniture HomeStore, at 17275 N.W. Cornell Road, for a 'Neighborhood Market,' a scaled-down, grocery-oriented version of its more controversial super-center 'box' stores.

The Cornell Road store is expected to employ 95 workers.

In addition to the Neighborhood Market, Walmart's 'Marketside' concept offers another alternative to superstores such as the 152,000-square-foot center at Southwest Barnes Road and Cedar Hills Boulevard the company proposed - and the city of Beaverton rejected - in 2006.

Walmart's website describes Marketside as 'small community pilot grocery stores' that specialize in 'fresh, delicious meals at great prices.'

Launched in 2008, Marketside stores average around 15,000 square feet and feature prepared meals, produce and wines along with natural and organic products.

So far, Walmart's plans for the Murray Boulevard site remain in the rumor and speculation phase.

The city of Beaverton has received no permit applications for the site, which was an unmitigated landfill before Haggen Inc. established a store there six years ago.

That Haggen store closed in April, a few months after the Bellingham, Wash.-based company closed its store in Tanasbourne.

Don Mazziotti, the city's community development director, said the former Haggen site on Murray Boulevard is strictly limited to grocery store use.

'If Walmart were to open a store, it could only be a grocery store. It could not sell a full array of products (Walmart) would otherwise sell,' he said, adding that the city has received several telephone inquiries regarding the property's future. 'We have no information that suggests anything would happen there other than an acquisition of property.'

Mazziotti called the former Ashley Furniture store at Cornell Road, with its approximately 40,000 square feet of space, 'ideal' for a Walmart Neighborhood Market.

'Murray Hill is about 20,000 square feet bigger,' he said, adding the former Haggen building is well built and suited for a modern retail store. 'It's a very, very good building. It's a double-wall building, which means it's not only strong, but completely soundproof.'

The building also features ample parking and an enclosed loading dock tunnel that accommodates semi trucks.

Mazziotti said it's his understanding that methane gas measurements at the former landfill site, which incorporates ventilation into its landscaping, have been negligible.

Still, he speculates the site's proximity to two Safeway supermarkets, an Albertsons and a New Seasons on the way, makes it less than ideal for a new supermarket.

'That market may be saturated,' he observed. 'But I'm not in the grocery store business.'

A self-described 'Fred Meyer guy,' Irish said despite his concerns that a typical Walmart store could affect traffic and change his neighborhood's character, he would be more likely to patronize a smaller, market-oriented Walmart store.

'I'm more comfortable with that, certainly,' he said. 'I'm still unsure. I think there are better choices for my family. But, I've never been to one.'