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WinCo has big plans for store

Kmart center won't look the same, grocery chain official says

A grocery store chain still hasn't signed a lease for the old Kmart shopping plaza in Medford, but the company plans on opening a store at the site by April or May.

WinCo Foods -- formerly Waremart Inc. -- needs to work out some final details on the lease, which the company announced that it wanted more than two years ago, said Gordon Davis, a Portland consultant working for the chain.

Even without a lease signed, the company is planning on making wholesale changes at the center and the parking lot. Much of the work will be done after the holidays.

When it's done, Davis said, it will look like a completely new center.

The chain plans to renovate the old Kmart store, vacant since 1996, into an 80,000-square-foot grocery store. Inside the store will be a florist, bakery and take-out pizza. The store will be open 24 hours a day.

He said that the company will add lighting poles and landscaping and will overlay the pavement.

Davis said the company will give the first set of construction plans to city planners by mid-October.

Senior City Planner Mark Gallagher said the plans for the center will probably not need to go through public review, because the site is not expanding. He said work on a building's facade does not generally go through those examinations.

Last month, WinCo Foods and the property owner started a $750,000 traffic project on Barnett Road, Davis said.

One of the most noticeable effects of that project is the loss of five tree islands in the middle of Barnett.

Those islands were taken out to make way for turn lanes onto businesses on either side of the street.

To mitigate for the lost trees, the company will pay for a new gateway streetscape, which will include 20 to 30 feet of shrubs, trees and sidewalk lining Barnett Avenue from Jack-in-the-Box to the new driveway for McDonald's.

The project also will reconfigure several driveways and, eventually, add a stoplight on Barnett at the plaza entrance between Jack-in-the-Box and Liberty Bank.

At the same time, the Oregon Department of Transportation is planning a $700,000 project to widen and improve traffic flow on the southbound on- and off-ramps at the Barnett interchange next year. The goal of the project is to keep cars from backing onto the freeway in the morning, said Debbie Timms, an ODOT project leader.

WinCo will contribute $30,000 to ODOT for the south Medford interchange project next year.

The company, based in Boise, Idaho, has changed the name of its Waremart and Cub Foods stores to WinCo to avoid confusion with Wal-Mart, Bi-Mart, Kmart and the like. It has more than 30 WinCo stores, including locations in Eugene and Redding, Calif.

Employees own a sizeable portion of the company, which employed about 4,500 at the end of 1998 and did about $800 million in sales last year.