Big might be better in Maple Valley

A longstanding cap on big-box stores in Maple Valley could be going away.

Fred Meyer

Fred Meyer

City officials consider welcoming big-box stores, and Fred Meyer’s interested

A longstanding cap on big-box stores in Maple Valley could be going away.

At a joint meeting of the City Council, the Planning Commission and the Economic Development Committee on March 31, the notion of allowing stores bigger than 100,000 square feet was discussed.

For about four months, the Planning Commission and the city’s community development staff have been working on a proposed change to city ordinances that would allow stores as large as 100,000 square feet. But serious discussion of allowing anything larger hadn’t happened before.

“Almost surely, there will be a real limitation on how many and where large users could go in the city,” said city manager Anthony Hemstad. “It was stated several times by a variety of people that the vision of Maple Valley is not to become another Covington or Federal Way. But there’s an understanding that some anchors will be needed to draw in some additional revenue.”

Hemstad said that in some ways, the proposed change looks more significant on paper than it may be.

A final decision on going bigger than 100,000 square feet is months away.

Hemstad explained that during the March 31 meeting, the Economic Development Committee’s chairman, Heath Anderson, noted there been much clear feedback on the committee’s recommendations to the City Council since they were submitted about a year ago.

Mayor Laure Iddings, suggested they discuss it and take a vote on whether the council should request an ordinance that could regulate retail businesses over 100,000 square feet, according to Hemstad.

“The Planning Commission needs to put together what the incentives for a large user would be,” he said. “The commission is now working on the regulations to make that possible, and that will take some time.”

The discussion on what Maple Valley’s big-box retail – the term commonly given to large retail and wholesale stores, such as the Home Depot and Costco outlets that are under construction or being planned in nearby Covington – would look like is also taken in the context of the subarea plan for the Four Corners that will be the blueprint for future development of that section of the city. Hemstad said the goal is to have the plan complete by the end of this year.

Among the interested onlookers of this process are representatives from Fred Meyer, who have approached the city with a proposal for a 175,000 square foot store and commercial plaza in Maple Valley.

Fred Meyer isn’t the only company that has approached Maple Valley, Hemstad said, but they’re the only ones that wait patiently for the possibility the city might change its codes.

Proposals for “the large hardware stores, and most of the other big boxes, have come through at one time or another in the past decade or so, largely because” there are no such stores in the city, Hemstad said. “Since most have located in Covington at this point, there’s not that many that would be interested in locating here.”

And the idea would be to bring in one like Fred Meyer which could then help attract smaller, boutique-style businesses or restaurants to to boost the city’s revenue sources.

Melinda Merrill, a spokeswoman for Fred Meyer, said the retailer’s proposal is one piece of the puzzle for Four Corners.

“There’s a lot of money right now that’s leaving the community to shop and eat in other communities,” Merrill said. “What we’d like to be part of, if the people of Maple Valley want it, is a lifestyle center. It would include restaurants, other shops, and it would be pedestrian-friendly. It would be a gathering place.”

And the building wouldn’t look like the Fred Meyer store in Covington, Merrill said.

“It would be a place that would fit into the community design-wise,” she said. “We’ve learned that we can’t just plop down a big white box like we’ve done in Covington. As the city has gone through this subarea planning process, we’ve tried to present an idea that fits the lifestyle of Maple Valley and the values of Maple Valley.”

Merrill added that the company sees significant potential for a store in Maple Valley, and “we feel like it’s a decent fit.”

“In the last five or six years, we’ve begun designing some of our stores differently,” she said. “We need to look at ourselves as part of the community. That includes aesthetics.”

The ideal distance between locations for Fred Meyer stores, Merrill explained, is five to seven miles. The Covington location is about five miles from the site that Fred Meyer is looking at in Four Corners — the northwest corner of the intersection of Southeast 272nd Street and Maple Valley Highway.

Fred Meyer is working with Powell Development, which has a lease agreement with the owners of the property that is currently home to TRM Lumber.

Merrill said Fred Meyer in Maple Valley would help bring other businesses into the city and keep some of the residents’ discretionary spending in the city, as well as increase Maple Valley’s tax base.

“We have evidence that in the communities that we go into, we actually help local business,” she said. “We can do it in a way to please the people of Maple Valley.”

Staff writer Kris Hill can be reached at (425) 432-1209 (extension 5054) and khill@reporternewspapers.com


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