Four big, yellow pieces of earth-moving equipment parked alongside Marathon Road can be seen as harbingers of the coming construction season, or more specifically, as the start of construction on the new Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse store in Kenai.
Lowe's, which announced plans more than two years ago to build a retail and garden center across from a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter in Kenai, is expected to meet with city officials at city hall April 4, prior to breaking ground April 8.
According to City Manager Rick Koch, no official ground-breaking ceremony is planned.
Two large track hoes, an excavator and a bulldozer have been positioned along Marathon Road in advance of the start of ground clearing and grubbing.
In January 2006, Lowe's said it wants to build a 139,000 square-foot store and 32,000 square-foot garden center on 15 acres of city land. The retailer initially planned to lease the land from Kenai, but has since purchased the property outright.
Koch said it is his understanding that Lowe's would like to have the store completed and open for business by this year's Christmas shopping season.
Lowe's plan has been scaled back to a 109,872 square-foot store with a 93,689 square-foot sales floor. The plan for the outdoor garden center remains at 31,659 square feet.
A little over two years ago, Wal-Mart announced plans to build a 235,000-square-foot supercenter on 38 acres behind Kenai Chrysler Center. Plans now indicate a store of 210,799 square feet.
Gone from the conceptual plan is a six-bay tire and lube express shop and gas station, but four "out lots" that could accommodate those amenities remain on the plan.
On Wednesday, Koch said Wal-Mart has not yet signed the purchase agreement to buy the land from the city for an estimated $3.7 million.
"May 6 is the scheduled date of closing (the real estate sale)," Koch said.
"That's the last day they can give us the money, according to the sales agreement," he said.
Koch expressed some concern over waiting until the May date, noting seasonal periods when various types of ground clearing are not permitted, including a customary ban on burning slash in warm, dry summer months.
If for some reason Wal-Mart fails to meet the May 6 date, the sales agreement could be amended, but not without the consent of the city council, Koch said.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at email@example.com.
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