Wal-Mart stuck in red tape

Store still coming

Posted: Thursday, October 12, 2006

Federal government red tape has snagged the Kenai Wal-Mart project temporarily, but the company remains excited about coming to Kenai.

Plans also are still on for the new Lowe’s Home Improvement Center to be built nearby.

Lowe’s is planning to build a 139,000-square-foot store and 32,000-square-foot garden center across Marathon Road from the planned Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart wants to build a 235,000-square-foot combination grocery and general merchandise store on city-owned airport property behind the Kenai Chrysler Center.

Wal-Mart is in the process of submitting an application to the Army Corps of Engineers for permission to fill in approximately 1 1/2 acres of wetlands on the 33-acre site where the new store is to be built.

According to the project manager for Lounsbury and Associates Inc., the Anchorage firm developing both Wal-Mart and Lowe’s in Kenai, the Alaska division of the Corps is awaiting a “preliminary jurisdictional determination” regarding the wetlands from the Corps’ headquarters.

“We are not doing any ground work right now,” said Tom Adams, when asked what work was being done on the Wal-Mart project.

On the Lowe’s project, Adams said, “We’ve conducted some field activities and we’re using the information to advance the civil site design,” which he explained as making progress towards the actual site design for the new store.

“Yeah, we’re very excited about the Kenai store,” said Wal-Mart spokesperson Jennifer Holder, when asked if Wal-Mart is still coming to Kenai.

“We originally looked at a ground lease. Right now we’re working with the city on an outright purchase of the land,” she said.

“We’re really grateful to have an excellent partnership with the city of Kenai,” Holder said.

Acknowledging the delays being experienced while awaiting the Corps of Engineers permit, Holder said, “What we’d like is to see the store open in the first quarter of 2008.”

In a letter to the city of Kenai, Lounsbury said Wal-Mart’s lease application expires Oct. 28, and the developer asked for a six-month extension.

If a purchase is successfully negotiated, the lease would become moot, according to Kenai City Manager Rick Koch, and the purchase arrangement would most likely contain a clause for the city to buy back the land should development not go forward.

Koch said Lowe’s also is seeking to purchase the 15-acre site on which it plans to build its store.

Construction on the Lowe’s store is expected to begin next year and, according to Koch, will proceed quickly once it begins.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.

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