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New Walmart coming to east Bellevue
A Walmart spokesman confirmed Thursday that Walmart will be the grocery tenant that will take over the vacated Kmart site, along with L.A. Fitness, in the 4000 block of 148th Avenue S.E.
“We think Walmart can be part of the solution in Bellevue for residents who need a job or want more affordable options close to home,” said Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo. “Plus, we see an opportunity to revive a long-dormant retail property and deliver an added economic boost to the area.”
There are presently about a dozen Walmart stores along the immediate I-5 corridor from Everett to Tacoma. There are none in Bellevue. The closest store to Mercer Island is in Renton.
The store will occupy 64,000 square feet of the old Kmart site, nearly half the size of an average Walmart store. (An average Safeway store is 46,000 square feet, and an average multi-department Fred Meyer is 165,000 square feet). It will be in the form of the store’s “Neighborhood Markets,” similar to a 45,000-square-foot model announced in Lynnwood earlier this year. Restivo said the store is expected to open in late 2012 and employ 95 people. Previously, no stores existed between Renton and Lynnwood.
The move to bring in a Walmart has created some buzz, with some already coming out against it. Approximately 50 people turned out Thursday to protest the company’s labor practices and the uncertainty surrounding the future of the center.
Following speeches decrying Walmart’s insurance and labor policies, the group, organized by the local UFCW 21 grocery union, marched into the office of the property owner PMF Investments. Protestors said they had heard rumors about the store being the choice, but could not get confirmation from the property owners.
Residents’ concern over the possibility of a Walmart has made it to City Hall, as well.
At a City Council meeting, Bellevue resident Sonja Rossman, who lives less than half a mile from the Kelsey Creek Center, said she was stunned to find out that Walmart may be coming to Bellevue.
Following her testimony, she looked for a response from city staff.
“It’s news to me,” City Manager Steve Sarkozy told her. According to Bellevue’s Development Services Director Mike Brennan, permitting documents for the site don’t require the developer to name future tenants.