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Whats on the horizon

Wal-Mart rumored to be looking at a site in LO
by: vern uyetake

If the rumors are true, at least two Wal-Mart stores could be coming to Lake Oswego and West Linn.

Urban Works Real Estate recently released a list of a dozen potential sites for as many as 17 Wal-Mart stores said to be opening in the Portland area. One is at the former Wild Oats Market at 17711 Jean Way, off Boones Ferry Road in Lake Grove. Another is the former Bales Marketplace at 19133 Willamette Drive, in the Robinwood Shopping Center in West Linn. Both buildings have sat vacant for years.

Oregon City, Oak Grove, Beaverton, Ti-gard, Gresham and Raleigh Hills also made the list of possible Wal-Mart locations.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Tiffany Moffatt declined to answer questions about the company's prospects.

'While we are always looking for opportunities to be as close to our customers as possible, I do not have anything to confirm at this time,' she said in an emailed response to questions.

According to Urban Works, many of the new spots have already been leased or purchased, but the company is waiting to make public announcements while 'completing their due diligence' and delaying potential neighborhood resistance.

These wouldn't necessarily be traditional big-box stores most people picture when they think of Wal-Mart, the world's biggest corporation. Instead, they would be maybe a quarter of the size or smaller than the company's supercenters.

Even so, local opposition is already mounting.

The city of West Linn recently received a written inquiry from a citizen upset about a potential 'traffic nightmare' and other potential issues associated with the store.

'It will significantly decrease home values in the surrounding neighborhood,' wrote Hidden Springs neighborhood resident Barbara Broudy, who did not respond to a request for additional comment. 'It will increase the crime rate due to individuals, who are not from our area, coming in to West Linn for a 'bargain.''

'Any jobs created by Wal-Mart are created for others who do not live in West Linn, and who will commute to our city for the job and then leave each day back to their homes elsewhere,' she wrote. 'People in West Linn will not be the future employees of Wal-Mart. What would be even worse is to have a low-income group renting the apartments around the location - and who will have more than the expected (number of) people living in one apartment.'

Meanwhile, Broudy added, 'Our local businesses, that we support, will go 'out of business' because of Wal-Mart.'

Possible Lake Oswego venture could face stricter limits

Lake Oswego Economic Development Manager Jane Blackstone said Lake Oswego hasn't received an application or any other formal indication that Wal-Mart will set up shop on Jean Way, but she has heard the rumors.

'It's still far from authoritative,' she said.

What sorts of land-use hurdles the company would face remain unclear in Lake Oswego as well.

'There are some restrictions in our code on that area,' Blackstone said. 'No one user of the retail building can occupy more than 26,500 square feet of the building.'

It's possible Wal-Mart could bring additional tenants into the 34,370-square-foot space, Blackstone said, but she didn't want to speculate.

'The property has been vacant a long time,' she said. 'It would be great if we could ensure that the review of any development application, if there is one, as usual is a very open public process so we can hear people's concerns.'

However, she noted the situation might be similar to West Linn's. The company might not be required to do much public outreach because the building has already been used as a grocery store.

West Linn store right size for 'neighborhood market' concept

Gary Surgeon, a broker at Commercial Realty Advisors NW, has been working on the West Linn property. He also declined to give any specifics about potential tenants, but he said a variety of options have been considered over the two years since Bales closed.

'We had a plan for three tenants at one point,' he said. Possibilities have included a health club, a hardware store or another grocery store, he said. 'Any of those would be acceptable to the landlord and beneficial to the community. … We thought for this situation, a combination would work best.'

Of Wal-Mart, Surgeon said, 'We can't confirm or deny anything.'

The building does offer 40,000 square feet of retail space - around the same size Wal-Mart aims for with its neighborhood 'markets.'

These markets are typically about 42,000 square feet and offer groceries, pharmacies, paper goods, health and beauty sections and pet and household supplies - a similar range of products to what is available at most Fred Meyer stores.

They're bigger than Wal-Mart 'express' stores, the company's convenience option, but they're dwarfed by the more traditional supercenters. The nearly 3,000 Wal-Mart 'supercenters' nationwide average 185,000 square feet, according to the company's website.

West Linn Senior Planner Chris Kerr said it's tough to say what sorts of land-use applications Wal-Mart might need to file to use the Bales store.

If a company wanted to make changes to parking areas, access or similar components, it would need city approval of its design, he said. A store bigger than 40,000 square feet would require a special conditional-use permit.

But a supermarket is already allowed on the site.

'In this case, it wouldn't be a new store,' Kerr said. 'If another retail supermarket were to move into the same building, that wouldn't trigger anything, because they already have an approval out there.'

However, he said, 'We haven't heard anything here at city hall about Wal-Mart coming in.'