Taking Kmart’s place is … what?

Kmart closed in September; now something may take its place.

Kmart closed in September; now something may take its place.

A request to divide the tax lot occupied by the former Kmart store in Albany has touched off rumors in City Hall and elsewhere about what if anything might go there. The big question: Is Winco Foods involved? Good answers were impossible to come by on Monday night.

The subject popped up at the end of the Albany City Council's Monday afternoon work session. Did City Manager Wes Hare want to say anything about the rumor, Mayor Sharon Konopa asked him. Not really, was the answer. Rumor? Well, Hare allowed, what happened was that the city had received a land use request involving the Kmart site off the north end of Pacific Boulevard S.E.

The request is to separate the Kmart location from part of the lot occupied by a Taco Bell restaurant. That's all. Hare said the city had not been informed about any plans for redevelopment once the property is divided, and certainly no development plans had been filed. The view among the staff, though, privately expressed, seems to be that there's a plan to turn the place into a supermarket. And Winco is rumored to be the interested party.

With night falling and offices closing before the Veterans Day holiday, there was no way to get the details of the requested land partition, let alone any underlying plans giving rise to that request. (And anyway, companies typically refuse to disclose their plans until they're good and ready.)

If it's a supermarket, and especially if it's to be a Winco, this is not good news for people in west and north Albany, who have been pining for a supermarket chain, preferrably Winco, to reopen either the abandoned Safeway at Queen and Pacific or the vacant former Ray's on North Albany Road. Any more supermarkets elsewhere presumably lessen the chances of one opening at either site where people want one.

As it is, the concentration of supermarkets in southeast Albany, and their total absence from the southwestern and northern sectors of town, forces uncounted area residents to drive several miles each way for trips to the store. The city's economic development program has been trying to get a company interested in the Ray's location, having contacted Winco and others, but so far without success.

Winco, which calls itself the "Supermarket Low Price Leader," is an employee-owned chain with stores in Oregon and seven other western states. Its nearest branches are in Corvallis, Monmouth and Salem, which has two. (hh)

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