Construction costs delay Wal-Mart

City manager says the soonest project could be finished is in 10 months

Posted: Thursday, April 20, 2006

Juneau's harsh winters and fragile soil are to blame for high-cost construction bids delaying Wal-Mart's arrival in Juneau, City Manager Rod Swope said Wednesday.

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Wal-Mart purchased the vacant retail building that was Juneau's Kmart. Kmart began operating in Juneau in 1993 and expanded into a Super Kmart outlet in 2001. Kmart left its Lemon Creek-area store in April 2003.

Wal-Mart had been scheduled to open next February. But the opener won't be for at least nine months after the company accepts a construction bid, Swope said.

"They are going to restart the bidding process for the work on the building," Swope said. "The soonest this project will realistically be done is now 10 to 12 months."

Wal-Mart completed the design, but when the company went forward seeking bids for interior renovation the project went way over budget estimates, Swope said. The bidding problem worried local contractors who may have to drive 100 piles in the ground to reinforce the floor for heavy loads.

"The soil is like pudding," Swope said. "It is well known that they have had problems out there with the stability of the floor."

The building also needs extensive interior work because Kmart left it vacant and didn't winterize it, Swope said. A sprinkler pipe busted and made a mess of the building, he said.

Alaska construction costs are much higher than when the project was budgeted, said Jennifer Holder, Northwest regional spokeswoman for Wal-Mart. She said bidding was open for in-state and out-of-state companies.

"We really like the piece of property and hope to remodel the building, although we don't know if we have to change design plans or not," Holder said. "We either have to re-evaluate the site design or budget."



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