Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, August 22, 2008

"PULLMAN WALMART: Construction may start soon; Company spokeswoman says ground could be broken this year; Moscow store could be relocated, expanded"

Well, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News is sticking with their story that Wal-Mart hopes to break ground by the end of the year even though Wal-Mart has told both me and the Lewiston Tribune that there is absolutely no timeline and that the status has not changed one iota. But in any case, from Hillary's keyboard to God's ears. I pray groundbreaking is sooner rather than later.

I can confirm a couple of things that the Daily News is reporting:

One, the Clarkston Supercenter is much further along than Pullman (thanks to the moonbat-free valley environment), and will likely break ground before Pullman.

Two, persistent rumors that Wal-Mart will pull out of Pullman and build in the Hawkins development in the corridor are completely untrue, as are rumors that Wal-Mart will build just in Clarkston instead of Pullman. In case anyone hasn't been paying attention lately, the Hawkins project appears to be in limbo, and unlike Wal-Mart, Hawkins refuses to engage in any rumor control. We are left to speculate what is happening there.

The information on Wal-Mart plans for Moscow is very interesting, particularly the "relocation/expansion within Moscow" statement. With little fanfare, the Thompson property on the east side of Moscow, the original planned location for a Moscow Supercenter, was rezoned to motor business a couple of months ago, eliminating the first and ultimately insurmountable hurdle Wal-Mart faced back in 2006. Now, all that would be left is to get a conditional use permit, which given the current Moscow City Council makeup, would not be difficult.

Stay tuned.

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Walmart hopes to break ground on a proposed super center in Pullman by the end of the year, said Jennifer Spall, the company's Washington spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, Walmart's Idaho spokeswoman said company officials still are considering a relocation and possible expansion of the Moscow store.

Engineers are working on design elements of the building being planned for Bishop Boulevard in Pullman. Spall said the plans have changed since October 2004, when company officials first announced plans to build a super center in Pullman.

Spall said the company will apply to the city for permits and the project will go to bid - and be open to local contractors - once design plans are finalized.

She said Walmart stores in Washington are built year-round, and the Pullman store is expected to open in 2010.

"I have a feeling it's coming soon, but we're working through the process," she said. "Everything is moving along, finally. We're very excited about coming to Pullman."

Spall said rumors that the company may opt out of the Pullman location in favor of building at the site of Hawkins Companies' planned retail development in eastern Whitman County just west of Moscow are false.

"There are a lot of rumors going on there," she said. "I think people may be confused. The only other store we're building near you ... is a store next to Costco in Clarkston. There's absolutely no truth to rumors that we're moving it out of Pullman."

Walmart will be required to install two four-way stoplights on Bishop Boulevard at the intersections of Harvest Drive and Fairmount Road, a commitment made for approval of the store's State Environmental Policy Act checklist and site plan.

Pullman Public Works Director Mark Workman said there is no specific timeline for Walmart to put in the stoplights, but there's an expectation that they'll be installed in time for the store's opening. The company also must extend and widen Fairmount Drive, which exits onto South Grand Avenue.

"We have control on when the store will open and when they get an occupancy permit," Workman said.

"They're aware that these signals are critical to the operation of the store. It's not like they could build the store and not the traffic signals. That's not an option. ... It's directly related to the anticipated effects of Walmart. It's their mitigation for the traffic impacts the store will have. It's absolutely necessary."

Karianne Fallow, Walmart spokeswoman for Idaho, said the Moscow store will remain where it is for now, despite efforts to relocate the store and upgrade it to a super center.

"Our customers' preferred shopping experience is at a super center," she said.

In May 2006, the Moscow City Council denied a rezone that would have allowed Walmart to pursue construction of a store on 77 acres east of town.

Fallow said Walmart officials are aware of the Hawkins Companies' development, but the company hopes to relocate to a new property in Moscow.

Fallow said store officials have not set a timeline for relocation, and she's not aware of any negotiations going on with Hawkins.

"I think anything is a possibility," she said. "We'll just have to see what opportunities ... come forward."
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