News

Wal-Mart bullish on Federal Way

By PAT JENKINS

The Mirror

How does a second or replacement Wal-Mart in Federal Way sound?

It sounds good enough to executives of the world's largest retailer that they're considering a site near the Interstate 5-State Route 18 junction for another of the company's stores.

A Wal-Mart spokesman wouldn't comment specifically on when a decision might be made or the company's plans for the store it already has in Federal Way, but did confirm reports and rumors of interest in opening a new one here.

"We're evaluating all our opportunities," said Eric Berger, the Seattle-based spokesman.

A new store could be part of a commercial development planned for 33 vacant acres bordered by I-5, SR-18, South 344th Street and 16th Avenue South. Included in the plans are a 223,000-square-feet building with a seasonal garden center and an automotive service facility.

The proposed development, called Federal Way Marketplace, has received preliminary approvals from the city. The developers would, however, be required by the city to make related street improvements or pay $1.1 million toward them.

The city has declared the project doesn't pose a major adverse environmental impact, meaning a costly and lengthy environmental study by the developer isn't required. A major impact would be automobile traffic, however, as the area around the proposed development site is already heavily traveled. It also is near the property where Christian Faith Center, after agreeing to costly street improvements to accommodate traffic, is building a 218,000 square-feet church –– including a 4,500-seat worship center –– and a 900-student school.

Bellingham-based developer Jeff Oliphant is behind the proposed Federal Way Marketplace, which also would include restaurants, a gas station and a combined 1,350 parking spaces.

Federal Way may be part of Wal-Mart's aggressive expansion. In Washington alone, 10 new stores either opened recently or are in various stages of construction or advanced planning. While a second Federal Way store isn't one of those, the city and south King County as a whole are of interest to the company, Berger said.

The closest existing stores outside of Federal Way are in Auburn and Renton. Another one for King County is under construction in Covington.

Nationally, Wal-Mart has announced plans to open more than 280 new stores –– 230 of them "supercenters" –– during fiscal year 2005. Relocations or expansions of existing stores will account for approximately 140 of the supercenters, while the rest will be built in new locations, the company said. No information has been released on which scenario would apply to Federal Way.

Wal-Mart would be the second major retailer to duplicate or relocate an existing operation in Federal Way. In October, Target opened a new store at The Commons at Federal Way (formerly SeaTac Mall), a few blocks from an older store that's now closed.

Wal-Mart has more than 3,000 stores in the U.S. and another 1,000-plus in other countries.

According to the Business Examiner in Tacoma, a second, undisclosed major retailer also is interested in the Federal Way Marketplace project.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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