Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"Wal-Mart makes land buy; Purchase paves way for construction of super center in Clarkston"

The Clarkston Wal-Mart Supercenter seems like a done deal now. But notice that Wal-Mart is still sticking it out with Pullman, with an Appellate Court decision expected any day now.

It's a sad commentary that job growth at SEL and WSU in Pullman is leading to more economic development in the L-C Valley than in Pullman itself. But until Pullman gets more affordable housing and more retail (by getting the leftist academics and NIMBYists out of the way), that's the way it is going to be.

From the April 4 edition of the Lewiston Tribune:
Wal-Mart has purchased about 26 acres for $6.5 million at Fifth and Fair streets in Clarkston to construct a super center.

The documentation of the deal, including how much the world's largest retailer paid for the property, arrived at the Asotin County Courthouse on Thursday.

The ownership of the land was split among three groups before it was transferred to Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust, according to the Asotin County Assessor's office.

The seller with the most land was Peter Greene and other unnamed parties, whose 14.45 acres sold for $3.7 million. The other two sellers are B&L Construction, which lists John Larson of Asotin in its mailing address, and Clarkston Estates, with which Bill Larson of Clarkston has said he was affiliated. Both parties had about 6 acres that sold for about $1.4 million each, according to the assessor's office.

The completion of the transaction ends months of speculation about what will happen to the property. Wal-Mart consultants have been exploring putting a super center on the site for about a year.

Jennifer Spall, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart in Washington, said the deal was too fresh to have many details such as when construction would start, if the center will sell tires and how large it will be.

The super center will carry groceries and other items found at its discount stores like the one in Lewiston, such as toys, clothing and audio-video equipment.

Typically construction takes nine to 12 months and Wal-Mart spends another three months outfitting stores and hiring employees, Spall said.

The store will employ 300 to 400 people at average wages of more than $10 per hour, Spall said. About 70 percent of the jobs will be full time with benefits, like medical insurance and retirement plans.

Clarkston city officials anticipate sales tax revenue will grow by as much as $200,000 per year to $836,000 annually not counting 15 percent that goes to the county.

Wal-Mart and Clarkston city officials are negotiating measures the company will pay for to mitigate its impact on the community. Wal-Mart officials anticipate the store will generate 9,000 to 10,500 new car trips per day to the location.

"We're excited," Greene said, who also is a Lewiston real estate investor and is developing Estates at Canyon Crest in Lewiston and Westridge View Estates in the Clarkston area. "This will create additional economic stimulus for the valley. It will be a catalyst to bring in solid investment growth."

The Lewiston-Clarkston Valley and Moscow-Pullman area have a lot going for them, Greene said who pointed to a number of examples of the region's economic strength.

The valley is experiencing a period of job growth. Lewis-Clark State College is constructing a new nursing building. Schweitizer Engineering Laboratories in Pullman has become the region's second largest manufacturer behind Potlatch Corp. Washington State University announced plans to build a $35 million center for Global Animal Health.

What effect Wal-Mart's purchase has on its other stores in the region is not clear.

Spall declined to say what will happen to the Lewiston store. Wal-Mart considers Lewiston and Clarkston separate markets, she said. Wal-Mart also has a store in Moscow.

Wal-Mart is continuing to pursue plans to construct a super center in Pullman, where it has purchased 28 acres in the 400 block of Bishop Boulevard, but that plan has been stalled by litigation. The case involves an appeal by the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development of a decision by the Pullman City Council to allow the super center.

A decision is expected any day by Washington's Division III Court of Appeals in Spokane, Spall said. "We've prevailed at every single step. We're hopeful it will turn out in our favor."
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