Tuesday, June 22, 2010

WinCo Foods eyes Vallejo Elks Lodge site for new grocery store

WinCo Foods eyes Vallejo Elks Lodge site for new grocery store

But WinCo faces a tight time-frame

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen / Times-Herald

Posted: 06/22/2010 01:01:03 AM PDT

If some folks had their druthers, Vallejo's Elks Lodge would move to Amador and Florida streets and a new WinCo Foods store would be built on the Redwood Parkway site where the Elks Lodge now stands.

The subject of a possible WinCo Foods store on the site comes before the City Council tonight.

But there are some obstacles to that scenario -- not the least of which may be time, said Fred Sessler, the Elks Lodge's Realtor.

An environmental report must be completed on the 50-year-old Elks Lodge property before the project can go forward, Associate City Planner Bill Tuikka said. The property has been up for sale for at least 18 months.

"I think it's prudent for us to look at the traffic impact, before we can get started," Tuikka said. "But, I think Vallejo will like a WinCo. I think it will be a hit."

WinCo is a 40-year-old, employee-owned discount supermarket warehouse store, according to its website. It ranked 226th on Forbes Magazine's List of 500 largest privately held companies in 1998 and, in 2009, climbed to 92nd on the list, the site notes.

There are 71 WinCo stores in six Western states, with more than 13,000 employees, according to the site.

There are 30 stores statewide; the nearest one in Vacaville.

But it's coming to Vallejo is contingent on the outcome of the environmental review, Tuikka said. Public hearings and a use permit for off-site liquor sales also would be needed.

Jeff Kael of San Francisco-based Newman Development Group, LLC said his firm "is assisting the applicant," Redwood Parkway Partners, LLC, through the process. Redwood Parkway Partners is the developer hoping to build the WinCo.

Akel declined further comment, saying "We're still doing our initial investigation."

Redwood Parkway Partners would pay for the environmental impact review, according to a city report.

The process could take until February, Tuikka said.

But that may be too late for the Elks' to buy the former supermarket at Amador and Florida streets, in which the group is interested, Sessler said.

"I think the timing doesn't work in the Elks' favor because the EIR will take at least 35 weeks and by then the property will either be sold or foreclosed on," Sessler said. "It's in default and the owner applied for bankruptcy protection, and that must be done before the lender can take the property back."

Offers have come in on the old supermarket property and the bankruptcy judge must decide whether to accept any of those, Sessler said. The Vallejo Elks Lodge hasn't made an offer on the property, he said.

"They can't do anything until the WinCo matter is resolved," Sessler said.

The Vallejo Lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was established in 1900, and members have said they're determined to maintain a presence in town. Lodge members continue looking for alternative sites, Sessler said.

A story last August noted the group's shrinking membership prompted the effort to sell the Redwood Parkway property and downsize. The asking price was said then to be about $6 million.

Contact staff writer Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824 or rzrihen@timesheraldonline.com.