The future of the empty Big Kmart building in Kenai may be getting a little clearer, but some questions still remain.
Though details were murky Sunday, preliminary reports indicate Home Depot may move into the building.
Kenai Mayor John Williams said the lease for the building was transferred from Kmart to Home Depot last week and representatives from the Atlanta-based building-supply store have visited Kenai City Hall to inquire about permits to remodel the facility.
A spokesperson for Home Depot, however, said the final decision has not been made.
Spokesperson John Simley said the company is part of a consortium including Wal-Mart and Kohls that bid on about 15 closing Kmart facilities. But, he said, the bankruptcy judge in the Kmart case had not ruled on the final assignment of the buildings as of Friday.
If the judge approved the case, the Kenai facility would be purchased by Home Depot, not another member of the consortium, Simley said.
The owner of the building was not available for comment Sunday.
Though his information differed somewhat from Williams', Simley confirmed that Home Depot is interested in moving into Kenai.
"We're hopeful that we'll get a store open there," he said.
Simley added that he had no idea what the timeframe would be on opening a store in the area if the deal is completed.
Williams also said he hadn't heard specific plans from the company.
"I haven't heard that they've actually purchased building permits, and I haven't seen any plans," Williams said Sunday. "We're still in a holding pattern. They could sit on (the lease) for months or they could activate right away. I haven't heard the official word."
Williams said Home Depot could provide a much-needed economic boost to the city, but he added that he had concerns about the prospect, as well.
"Of course, if they do move in, it's a plus for the community in one respect. I'm not sure how it would affect other businesses in town, though. There are three or four other businesses that sell exclusively the same things (Home Depot would sell)," he said.
Williams said his bigger concern is the void Big Kmart's departure left in the clothing and home accessories market in town.
"There isn't one store in Kenai that sells underwear and socks," he said. "I can't go in and buy a white shirt and necktie anywhere in town."
Williams said he hopes to see another "soft goods" store come to Kenai and that he is working with two companies to explore options. He said has meetings with the companies this week and would not discuss the options in further detail.
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