Wal-Mart considers Juneau

Home Depot also discusses buying land behind Costco from the city

Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2004

Wal-Mart is considering moving into the Juneau building which Kmart abandoned in 2003, the Arkansas-based retailer confirmed Wednesday.

"We have made inquiries regarding the site," said Eric Berger, the Northwest Region community affairs manager for Wal-Mart.

The chain has more than 5,000 stores and wholesale clubs in 10 countries.

Meanwhile, The Home Depot, an Atlanta-based, home-improvement retail chain, is discussing buying 10 acres from the city for a possible store behind Costco, according to Juneau City Manager Rod Swope. The chain looked at the vacant Kmart space last year.

Wal-Mart officials are still in the fact-finding stage, Berger said.

"We have not made a decision if we are moving forward," he said.

The space, at 6525 Glacier Highway in the Lemon Creek area, has gone unused since Kmart closed its doors on April 13, 2003. The chain closed all of its Alaska stores in 2003 while reorganizing corporate debt.

Swope said Wednesday that Wal-Mart asked the city's Community Development Department about zoning restrictions and permit requirements for the Kmart property.

He said there hasn't been any talk with the city about the taxes the company would have to pay. He said the information could easily come from the current owners.

Berger said Wal-Mart has moved into other Kmart stores and has no problem in doing so, "if we feel we can make the necessary adjustments or design changes." Juneau, with a population of about 30,000, isn't too small, he added.

"We continually look for these types of opportunities," he said. "Some come to fruition. Some do not."

Berger said he did not know how long it would take corporate officials to make a decision.

In May 2003, an official from The Home Depot told the Empire that their representatives had looked at the empty building. Swope said he received a letter from the company on Tuesday inquiring about the land in another part of the Lemon Creek area. The matter is scheduled to go before the Assembly Lands Committee for discussion at 5 p.m. Monday.

Calls to the company on Wednesday were directed to an official in California who did not immediately return them.

The 10 acres are part of a 30-acre gravel pit site behind Costco, a membership wholesale retailer at 5225 Commercial Boulevard.

The Home Depot, Swope said, "has been looking for property in the city and borough." He said that the company was also looking for property in a sand and gravel pit adjacent to the city landfill off Glacier Highway, also in the Lemon Creek area.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.

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