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Council right to be cautious about proposed Walmart

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Sep. 1, 2011 at 7:06 pm with 4 Comments »
September 1, 2011 5:15 pm

Wal-Mart has announced plans to build its largest store – a Super Center – on the Tacoma Elks Lodge's Allenmore property. (The Associated Press)

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Surprise, Tacoma. It’s a Walmart.

In some communities, news that the giant retailer was coming to town with hundreds of jobs and sales tax revenue might be greeted with cheers. Some communities aren’t pro-union Tacoma – where the reaction so far seems to range from “No” to “Hell, no.”

That attitude might explain why developer Jeffrey Oliphant of JLO Washington Enterprises – who has had a purchase and sale agreement for the 18-acre Tacoma Elks site since February 2010 – kept under wraps his plan to build a 150,000-square-foot Walmart Super Center on the Central Tacoma site. It would be sandwiched between the Allenmore medical complex and an existing shopping center that includes Target, Top Foods, Office Depot and PetSmart.

A land-use application for a Walmart store was submitted to the city Wednesday, a day after the City Council placed a six-month moratorium on accepting new applications for “retail establishments that exceed 65,000 square feet.” Word seems to have leaked out that a big-box store was in the works, and the council decided that the city needed to step back and consider whether such a project was a good idea for the site.

The council is right to take that time. While the Elks certainly have a right to sell their property, the city has an interest in ensuring that such a large piece of land is developed in a way that fits in with the neighborhood and won’t overwhelm existing traffic infrastructure. An enormous Walmart likely would add a crushing amount of traffic to Union Avenue and nearby feeder arterials such as South 19th and Center streets.

The developer’s vision for the site has evolved. An environmental review – conducted as part of the general development process prior to finalizing sale of the property – was for a “conceptual plan that included a lot of square footage of medical office and retail,” said Ryan Petty, the city’s economic development director.

The original “Allenmore Mixed-Use” project included a hospital; medical, dental and research offices, a pharmacy warehouse, general office space and retail. At some point the major medical part of the plan went away, leaving only the retail part and smaller medical mixed-use. MultiCare had been a potential client, but has since decided against expanding.

Enter Walmart – and what’s almost guaranteed to whip up a whirlwind of controversy in Tacoma.

With its proximity to the Allenmore medical complex, the Elks site seems tailor-made for a combination of health-related businesses and, perhaps, high-density residential units geared to senior citizens. They’d be able to walk to medical offices, a bank, a hospital and the nearby shopping center.

While the jobs and tax revenue a Walmart would bring in would, indeed, be welcomed by many, a Super Center doesn’t seem like the highest and best use for such a prime site. The City Council is right to proceed with caution.

Leave a comment Comments → 4
  1. jake840 says:

    “An enormous Walmart likely would add a crushing amount of traffic to Union Avenue and nearby feeder arterials such as South 19th and Center streets.”

    Look at the reports from the TPD from in the past few months about the new WinCo:
    Traffic Congestion: On weekend’s traffic in all directions seems to become an issue at the intersection of S 72nd and S Hosmer. This is due to the increase in traffic flow because of WINCO. Traffic backs up in all directions and on the off ramp of NB I-5.

  2. surewire says:

    Yeah, let’s keep poor people from having the things they need and let’s keep unskilled worker from having the jobs they need, all so we don’t have to put up with a little traffic. The war against Wal-Mart is a war against the poor!

  3. quiller4 says:

    Wal-Mart will add nothing but traffic to a neighborhood already well served by a large grocery chain and a Target. The originally proposed medical complex would have provided a significant number of family wage jobs. A Wal-Mart won’t.

  4. JessicaW71970 says:

    I have driven through the intersection of 72nd and Hosmer on many weekwnds and I’m trying to see wherer the traffic has been backed up on the ramp… I have not witnessed it, but then again I have witnessed the picketers from the union hall sent to tell me where I should shop. I am sure that would be the same case if Wal*mart were allowed to move in to the 23rd & Union neighborhood as well.

    There have been many people out here saying that a Wal*mart would be a terrible idea and it wouldn’t add to the tax base, but that is incorrect. For every employee, the company pays both local and state taxes, those employees are no longer unemployed so they have additional money to spend, at any store of their choice, and those tax dollars go to the city and the state.

    Wal*mart is not my favorite store, but in a time where there are not many businesses hiring, they want to come in and build a new store, hire unemployed people and in many instances give them a leg up, well then why say no? This is not to mention what it would do for the economy of this area to have a good sized constuction project going on, the city makes all kinds of money off of that, there is plan review for the building department, plan review for the Electrical permits and plan review for the Fire Marshal’s office as well as engineering, etc. This could if allowed be a boon and people that want to work but cannot find anything out there in their skill set could easily be employed…. seems to me that it is a rather elitist attitude to not allow them to build, what are we turning Tacoma into? another Seattle?

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