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What's in store now'

Wal-Mart will close Hwy. 62 branch for Central Point 'super center'

CENTRAL POINT ' Wal-Mart officials on Wednesday confirmed what many residents suspected: that once a new Wal-Mart super center opens in Central Point, the store on Highway 62 in Medford will close.

It is the second opening and closing of Wal-Marts planned in the valley. Officials announced in June that the Talent store will close once a super center opens at Miles Field in south Medford.

The Wal-Mart super centers will measure more than 200,000 square feet, about double the size of current stores.

Closure of the Talent location and plans for a super center in Central Point have been hot topics for debate between city officials and local residents in recent weeks.

— But closure of the Medford store was the stuff of rumor and speculation until Wednesday.

Closure of the Highway 62 store actually is more than a rumor at this point, said Wal-Mart representative Amy Hill.

It is our intention to essentially relocate that store to the new Central Point location in order to better serve our customers.

The Central Point Wal-Mart super center will be at the Hamrick Road / Pine Street intersection.

Hill said company officials felt that swapping the two smaller stores for larger super centers in different locations would more adequately serve the Rogue Valley's areas of growth and retail needs.

But Eagle Point resident and small business owner Tim Maiers argued that Wal-Mart is ignoring the needs of residents in communities along Highway 62, such as White City, Eagle Point and Shady Cove.

I know there are a lot of people that use that center from Eagle Point and White City, Maiers said. Driving to Central Point has no advantage for me at all. I can't imagine it would for anyone.

If they would have made it a super center, that would have increased competition between stores like Safeway and Costco. Eagle Point is growing leaps and bounds, but doing things this way will really leave the people out here in the dust.

Hill said the current, 127,000-square-foot store on Highway 62 cannot accommodate a super-center expansion, nor is there enough land available on the site.

Medford city officials were surprised to learn that the Highway 62 store would close.

City economic developer Bill Hoke said the city would no longer receive property taxes from the new store at Miles Field, since it will be on county property and part of the city's urban renewal district.

Revenues would be less for the city and we would lose the store that's here, but (Wal-Mart) would still have a presence in the city, Hoke said.

You hate to see an empty building, but we'll be trading two small stores for two larger ones. That says that someone feels like the growth and infrastructure in the area is able to support that.

Local developers said the empty Wal-Mart building would not make or break the shopping center along Highway 62.

From a demographic standpoint, Wal-Mart probably served a different customer group than what Lowe's and Costco did, said Curt Burrill of Burrill Real Estate, which represents a large percentage of property surrounding the Medford store.

I don't think by any means that Medford would have the same problems as Talent in finding a new tenant, Burrill said.

I don't think it'd be a problem to see a building of that size absorbed by other retailers within the next year or a year from closing, he said. Of total square footage out there, Wal-Mart is probably 20 percent or less of the total.

Hill said the existing Medford and Talent locations would remain open until their replacements were completed.

Buffy Pollock is a free-lance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.