Wal-Mart Deal Confirmed for Hutton Ranch Plaza

By Beacon Staff

Phil Harris, developer of Hutton Ranch Plaza, has sold nearly 18 acres from his north Kalispell shopping center to Wal-Mart to build a Super Center. Wal-Mart closed on the property last week after a year and a half of negotiations, Harris said.

Josh Phair, Wal-Mart’s senior manager for public affairs and government relations, confirmed the deal, and said Wal-Mart hopes to receive a building permit from the city of Kalispell in December or January, and break ground on the new store by late spring or early summer. Assuming everything goes smoothly, the new Wal-Mart Super Center, which will sell groceries as well as general merchandise, could open its doors in early 2010.

The new Wal-Mart will be a relocation of the current Evergreen store, Phair said.

“We’ve always kind of known that there was a greater demand for a larger store that sold more products in Kalispell,” he added. “This just seemed like the right spot.”

Wal-Mart currently leases its Evergreen location, so it will try to sublease that space when the Super Center opens. And while Wal-Mart plans to keep its current Evergreen employees, there will be new job openings necessary to staff a bigger store.

“We’ll move a lot of those employees over and then probably have to staff up a little more,” Phair said.

He also expects some construction jobs to become available as the project progresses. Wal-Mart usually hires a general contractor through a bid process, and that contractor could be located anywhere. But most general contractors then hire local subcontractors, Phair said.

The city of Kalispell is currently dealing with a budget shortfall, and trying to figure out whether staff cuts to the police and fire department are necessary to balance the budget. The new Wal-Mart is likely to be a big boost to the city’s property tax base, though it will take years before that revenue becomes available to the city. The Bozeman Wal-Mart Super Center paid $66,000 in property taxes for the 2009 fiscal year, according to Anna Rosenberry, Bozeman’s finance director.

“We’re really looking forward to moving this project forward,” Phair said. “We’re really happy with how this has all worked out with the city of Kalispell.”