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UPDATE: Wal-Mart confirms plans to build on Central Tacoma Elks site

Post by Kathleen Cooper / The News Tribune on Aug. 31, 2011 at 11:07 am with No Comments »
August 31, 2011 3:47 pm

UPDATE, 2:35 p.m.: Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo just told me that the company plans to build a 150,000-square-foot store on the Central Tacoma Elks site between South Union Avenue and Cedar Street.

The company submitted a land-use application for the store today, he said. “With the moratorium being the elephant in the room, I don’t know what that does to the (construction) time frame,” he said.

Restivo said in light of the moratorium, the company will take a “wait-and-see” approach. Typically a Super Center can take up to 18 months to build before doors open, he said.

The timing of the moratorium is bad, he said, given Pierce County’s unemployment rate. He said a typical Super Center employs about 300 people.

He also addressed criticism of Wal-Mart: “How would a Wal-Mart impact be decidedly different (from another large store)? The size of the store is about the same. The number of people working in the store is about the same.”

Read more in tomorrow’s News Tribune.


Original post: Good morning, readers. Here are a few tidbits that didn’t make it into the story in this morning’s paper about the Tacoma City Council’s “big-box” moratorium:

Is Wal-Mart planning a store on the Central Tacoma Elks site? City economic development officials said they did not know the identity of the potential retail client at the Elks site. A half-dozen commercial brokers in Pierce County said Tuesday they have not heard of the Arkansas-based retailer looking for new space in Tacoma. I’ve contacted Wal-Mart’s corporate offices to see if I can find out more.

More about JLO Washington Enterprises: JLO is run by Jeffrey Oliphant, who is listed on various websites as an attorney in addition to being a retail and office developer in the Puget Sound region. His office address is in California. JLO’s projects in the region include an 88,000 square foot medical and professional office building in Auburn, and a shopping center in Federal Way that includes a Wal-Mart. The details of JLO and the Elks’ agreement, including the down payment and purchase price, aren’t public.

How far along is the development plan? According to public documents, JLO and the Elks have a purchase and sale agreement, but the sale hasn’t closed. Oliphant couldn’t be reached last night, and I’ve left another message for him this morning to find out more about plans for the site.

The general development process starts with a developer tying up the land then ensuring it’s a viable site for whatever he or she might plan.

Part of that process is an environmental review, when various regulatory agencies review site plans to figure out what traffic or other mitigations are needed. Such a review is expensive because developers must hire architects and engineers, and it’s usually a sign the developer is serious about the project.

The review is when “you get the menu, the list of conditions placed upon you as a developer,” said Pierce County broker and developer Mike Hickey, one of the owners of commercial real estate firm Neil Walter Co. “You don’t want to buy the property until you’re certain you can do what you’re planning to do.”

Once the plan’s viability is assured, the sale closes. In the meantime, the developer has spent “earnest money” as part of the purchase and sale – similar to a down payment – and also is spending money on the review process by hiring architects and engineers.

Ryan Petty, the city’s economic development director, said Tuesday that JLO’s plans during the environmental review on the Elks site were a “conceptual plan that included a lot of square footage of medical office and retail.” The review required the developer to address some traffic issues, including installation of a stoplight on Cedar Street.

The U-turn on South 23rd was not required as part of that environmental review, Petty said, though it would affect the Elks site.

Business community reaction to the moratorium: Reached last night and briefed on the council’s action, Economic Development Board president and CEO Bruce Kendall said this: “I don’t know the specific development this is trying to address. I do know that it’s important to be exceedingly careful when considering moratoriums on private development. Great care must be taken because it can send a signal to the marketplace that may be unintended.” I’ve called Tom Pierson, the new president and CEO of the Tacoma Chamber, to get his thoughts as well.


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