Panel recommends city deal with Home Depot

If Assembly approves project, firm expects to hire 150 workers

Posted: Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Home Depot has cleared one obstacle to building itself a home in Juneau.

At its Monday meeting, the Juneau Assembly Lands Committee unanimously recommended that the Assembly authorize City Manager Rod Swope to negotiate a land sale with the Atlanta-based chain.

The Assembly is scheduled to introduce a resolution on the authorization Jan. 10.

The Home Depot is asking to buy 10 acres of city-owned, industrially zoned land behind Costco in the Lemon Creek area. The property is part of a 30-acre gravel pit site that has provided materials for city construction projects since 1983.

The city doesn't know the sale price of the land yet. An independent appraiser will be hired to assess the fair market value, said Lands and Resources Manager Steve Gilbertson.

If the Assembly approves the project, The Home Depot is expected to hire 150 workers and contribute $125,000 in annual property tax in Juneau, said Brian Cannard, real estate manager of The Home Depot's Northwest division, in a letter to Swope.

"Our building and site cost roughly $9.5 million, generating about $4.5 million in construction payrolls," Cannard said.

But owners of local construction supply companies said the introduction of The Home Depot wouldn't necessarily benefit Juneau.

"The retail environment is very static," said Bruce Abel, whose family has owned Don Abel Building Supplies for 68 years. "You are trading one animal with another. You are just transferring jobs from one company to another."

Abel, president of Don Abel Building Supplies, urges the Assembly to conduct a study on how a big box retailer like The Home Depot would affect Juneau's infrastructure.

Swope said he understands Abel's sentiments.

"A company like Home Depot, with its ability, can hurt local business," Swope said. "It's up to the Assembly to decide if they prefer to have Home Depot or put out the land for bids."

The Home Depot has checked out other sites but couldn't find a piece of land that met its needs.

Gilbertson said The Home Depot had closely examined the Kmart property and found that the soil and foundation would not support the floor load requirement for The Home Depot's heavy equipment. The Home Depot also determined that it wouldn't be economical to retrofit the store to increase the floor load capacity.

In November, The Home Depot asked that the city sell the 10 acres near Costco.

Although The Home Depot expressed interest to begin construction as soon as possible, it will take at least four months before it can break the ground.

"The negotiation will take about three to four months," Gilbertson said. "Then the Planning Commission and the Assembly will have public hearings on the proposal. That might take another two months."

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