Business

What’s next for former QFC shopping center in Lakewood?

A strip mall that was once anchored by QFC in Lakewood, but in the years after the grocer’s departure fell into a state of decline, has received a decision that might help chart its future course.

The Lakewood hearing examiner’s decision, dated Oct. 13, rules on an appeal filed over the city’s abatement orders for the site. The site, encompassing 9314-9316 Bridgeport Way S.W. and 9320–9330 Bridgeport Way S.W., was placed in the city’s Dangerous Building and Abatement Program this summer.

The decision amends the city’s orders to now require a building evaluation by a professional engineer, including a seismic evaluation, and a full electrical evaluation.

The evaluation reports and any necessary permits for repairs are due to the city by Nov. 15. Should the new owner, Oregon-based businessman Terry Emmert, choose to take on any demolition, that would have to happen by Dec. 31.

Demolition, though, is not on the table, according to Jerry Reeves, structural engineer and lead project manager for the site for the new ownership.

“We’re super excited and see it as a win in our book,” he told The News Tribune in a brief phone interview Tuesday when asked about the decision.

He added that there were “no hard feelings on our side, and we hope to have good relationship and hope to do more work in that community.”

The lone tenant for now at the site is Cascade Bagel & Deli, which has been allowed to continue to occupy space.

Phil Olbrechts, hearing examiner for Lakewood, in the 18-page decision, wrote that completion of the new owner’s work “should resolve most of the conditions found by this decision to qualify the buildings as dangerous under the International Property Maintenance Code.”

But the hearing examiner also highlighted two exceptions and called for a full electrical inspection and limited structural evaluation “to address some of the structural issues identified by city staff.”

The call for a structural evaluation stems from concerns of past regulations versus new regulations:

City witnesses identified that the subject buildings are tilt-up construction that were built under regulations that were later found to be inadequate to protect such buildings from roof collapse,” according to the hearing examiner decision.

The hearing examiner noted that city staff had presented evidence that standing water, dirt and vegetation on the roof “has caused the type of building separation that the new regulations were designed to prevent — specifically separation of walls from the roof and between wall panels as well as extensive cracking.”

It went on to add: “Much of this cracking has occurred within the last four months.”

Reeves told The News Tribune his team has made good progress on the site.

“The electrical will be done in next couple of days, and L&I will have signed off, All the panels have been checked, so we’ve basically abated everything.”

“I think we’re golden. I think we’re going to get through with all of this and not having this be a contentious matter, which is what we ended up in the middle of,” he said, after taking on the center from its previous owners, Westwood Financial.

Assistant city attorney Eileen McKain, in an email sent to city staff that included the release of the decision, wrote that it was “a thorough decision that strikes the correct balance between respecting private property rights and protecting the public by sustaining the City’s orders, while also recognizing the new owner’s work to comply with the orders.”

Reeves reiterated an interest in possibly creating a mixed-used multifamily development at the center, an idea he also floated in a September News Tribune interview about future plans for the site.

If those plans came to fruition, the project would be a significant addition to Lakewood following the city’s $2 million investment in upgrades to Colonial Plaza.

No plans have been submitted yet, and for now, the city is most concerned about safety for a shopping center that’s been in disrepair for too long.

“We just want this building to be made as safe as possible,” said Brynn Grimley, communications manager for the City of Lakewood.

“If they choose not to demolish, then we want to make sure it’s brought up to code and is safe for people to enter.”

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