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Goodbye, Elks Lodge; Hello, Walmart

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Aug. 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm with No Comments »
August 1, 2012 3:35 pm

The parking lot paving is rubble. The outdoor running track is just a memory, and the big 1965-vintage Tacoma Elks Lodge building with its swimming pool, bowling alley and 1,000-seat auditorium this week stands on the verge of destruction.

“Once we finish removing asbestos and hazardous materials from the building’s interior, we’ll begin razing the building,” Bob Graff, project superintendent for Woodinville’s Sierra Construction Co., said this week.

The site preparation and the building’s removal, now expected to start in about two weeks, is setting the stage for construction of Tacoma’s first Walmart superstore on Union Avenue near Allenmore Hospital.

Graff said he expects the demolition will require about a month with construction of the 150,000-square-foot store beginning about the first week of October.

Building materials, brick and concrete panels, will be “rubblized” on site and used in the new project.

The lodge itself has already broken ground for a new building on the Allenmore Golf Course across Cedar Street from the 47-year-old former lodge. That building will be less than half the size of the old.

That new structure will be a better fit for the lodge whose membership now hovers around 2,000.

New Elks lodge
New Tacoma Elks Lodge

That compares with 12,000 members when the Union Avenue lodge opened in 1965. That lodge structure was the third home for Tacoma Elks No. 174, then the nation’s largest lodge with some 12,000 members.

The lodge’s second home, the classic white building at 565 Broadway in downtown near Old City Hall, served the membership from 1915 through 1965. That building, battered by years of vandalism and neglect will outlive its successor.

Oregon’s McMenamins plans to begin renovation of that classic building late this summer to convert it into a hotel and entertainment venue complete with restaurants, bars and lodging rooms.

The Union Avenue locale will also be the site of at least one medical office building on the Cedar Street side of the site. Plans are still being prepared for that building.

The new Walmart store, which drew opposition from some Tacoma neighborhood groups that were concerned about traffic and competition for smaller merchants, will include a full-sized grocery and general merchandise department, a bakery, pharmacy and nursery department, said Rachel Wall, a company spokeswoman.

The store is expected to employ about 300 workers, she said.

The project will incorporate new street entrances on both Cedar Street and Union Avenue to handle the expected volume of business.

Wall said the retailer hasn’t yet set a date for the store’s grand opening. The construction project superintendent said construction work will likely require about a year.

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