Wal-Mart coming to Kenai

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2005

After years of rumors and speculation — and 1 1/2 years of secret negotiations — it can finally be said: Wal-Mart is coming to the Kenai Peninsula.

The world's largest retailer has signed a lease application with the city of Kenai to build a 235,000-square-foot super center on a parcel of land wrapping around behind Kenai Chrysler from the "dust bowl" ball field on the Kenai Spur Highway to Marathon Road, according to Kenai's interim city manager.

Chuck Kopp said the lease has a 20-year base term with 14 five-year options to extend. He also said Wal-Mart would have the first option to purchase the 37.28-acre parcel.

The arrangement will now go through the public process for approval by the Kenai Planning and Zoning Department and the Kenai City Council.

The proposed Wal-Mart super center would include general merchandise, groceries, a garden center, a six-bay tire and lube express shop and a gas station.

The complex also would include six "out-lot parcels" for other businesses. Wal-Mart would manage the parcels.

Parking space for 1,129 standard-size vehicles is included, along with 29 handicap accessible parking spaces, 26 spaces for recreational vehicle parking and 20 spaces for shopping cart corrals.

Kopp said the city and Wal-Mart are still involved in "in-house legal discussion" on when construction would actually start, but he said dependent on permitting and Wal-Mart's work schedule, construction should begin within the next two years.

The property on which the store would be built is airport property that was deeded to the city from the Federal Aviation Administration through the state of Alaska after the state declined to maintain Kenai Municipal Airport.

Kopp said although a portion of the land has been used temporarily for the ball field and a campground, the city was prohibited from using it for recreational purposes on a permanent basis but could use it for economic development.

He said he anticipates a store the size proposed by Wal-Mart could bring "a couple hundred jobs" to the city, as well as $1 million a year in tax receipts.

Kopp described the lease application as "fabulous news for the city of Kenai."

"We're very excited to have Wal-Mart join our business sector," Kopp said.

He also said Kmart, which closed its retail general merchandise business in Kenai in the spring of 2003, was never replaced.

"This will anchor the economy of Kenai for decades to come," Kopp said.

On Monday, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced plans to add 60 million square feet of retail space globally in its fiscal year beginning Feb. 1.

The additional growth would include between 270 and 280 super centers, 20 to 30 discount stores, 15 to 20 Neighborhood Markets and 30 to 40 Sam's Clubs.

The super center in Kenai would be the retail giant's first such combination grocery and general merchandise store in Alaska.

Wal-Mart has seven discount stores and three Sam's Clubs in the state, according to its Web site.

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