Retail boom in Fairbanks changes landscape

Posted: Tuesday, August 12, 2003

ANCHORAGE Wal-Mart's decision to build a 150,000-square-foot store on 26.5 acres in north Fairbanks has generated a storm of business activity in the neighborhood, a local landowner said.

Jerry Sadler, owner of Airport Equipment Rental Inc., said about a year and a half ago he bought 17.5 acres from the Bentley Family Trust, a major landowner in the area.

Once he subdivided the plot located across the Old Steese Highway from the Wal-Mart site it turned into hot property.

''I just signed the deal with Boston Pizza and Sports Bar,'' Sadler said. ''We've got a bank and a major bookstore going in. I've got a strip mall going in, there's a dentist, I've got an accountant.

''I've got about four acres left,'' Sadler told the Alaska Journal of Commerce. ''And I don't imagine I'll have them for long. It seemed to work out just fine.''

Janet Davison of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Community Research Center also attributes the growth in the area to the planned Wal-Mart. The Wal-Mart store, Fairbanks' first, is scheduled to open next year.

''I'm thinking it's been kind of a domino effect,'' Davison said.

''It's going to pull a lot of the west-end traffic over to this other side,'' Davison added.

The Bentley Family Trust property originally encompassed 849 acres of north Fairbanks and was worked as a dairy by the family in the early 1920s under homestead grants, said Cliff Burglin, one of two co-trustees for the family.

It is bordered by the Old Steese Highway to the east, the Johansen Expressway to the north and College Road on the south and west.

Of the original 849 acres, the trust has sold about 150 acres to private parties, Burglin said, and more will likely be on the market soon.

Two potential clients are Lowe's Companies, which operates Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Stores, and Fred Meyer Stores.

''We've been talking with them, we're talking,'' Burglin said.

Representatives from the two firms were noncommittal about their plans.

''We are certainly evaluating potential opportunities in Alaska,'' said Chris Ahearn, a spokesperson at the company's headquarters in Wilkesboro, N.C. ''But we don't have any specific sites that we can discuss at this time.''

Rob Boley, a spokesman for Fred Meyer in Portland, Ore., said the company is considering replacing one of its two Fairbanks stores.

''That's something we've been looking at, but right now there are no agreements,'' Boley said. ''Stay tuned.''

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