They’re tearing down Lakewood’s Star Lite. New use to bring increased truck traffic

Good night, Star Lite.

Demolition started this week at Lakewood’s old drive-in turned swap meet.

Davis Development will construct a 244,905-square-foot structure for industrial companies on the site at South Tacoma Way and South 84th Street. The new facility will be known as the Starlite Distribution Center.

Spaces in the building will be sold to tenants for storage, manufacturing and distributing, said Lakewood’s economic development manager, Becky Newton.

The center’s details are yet to be finalized, but the facility is expected to host as many as four companies, Jeff Davis with Davis Development said in an email.

The redevelopment ends a long and lately tumultuous run for the old drive-in.

The Star Lite began in 1948 as a movie theater, then became a large flea market. The Internal Revenue Service seized the property in 2001, and Hank Bardon purchased the site in 2004, creating a seven-day swap meet.

Bardon ran afoul of the city of Lakewood and the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department in recent years over business practices and health and safety concerns, sometimes facing the city in court.

Traffic is likely to be the biggest concern under the new ownership and use.

The volume of semi-truck traffic will increase significantly in the area, so 33rd Avenue South and 82nd Street South are expected to be redone and widened. There will be two entrances on both South 82nd and 84th streets and one on 33rd Avenue South. The nearby off-ramps from Interstate 5 also will see more traffic, a city analysis concluded.

A city report said developers will build landscaping buffers, like fencing, to minimize noise for nearby residents.

Davis Development said the structure will be built by the beginning of summer next year. The project will cost about $29.5 million. The building company is working on a full-sized grocery store in Fife, where construction is expected to start soon, Davis said.

Bardon still owns the parking lot that backs up to South Tacoma Way and holds the iconic Star Lite sign.

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Josephine Peterson covers Pierce County and Puyallup for The News Tribune and The Puyallup Herald. She previously worked at The News Journal in Delaware as the crime reporter and interned at The Washington Post.