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Costco takes aim on Central Point

Costco representatives will go before the Central Point Planning Commission today, having already smoothed out the rough edges, seeking approval to build a 161,992-square-foot warehouse near the southwest corner of Table Rock and Hamrick roads.

The Issaquah, Wash.-based membership retailer has already made financial and other commitments in pre-application meetings with government agencies and departments with an eye toward beginning site work on a warehouse and fueling station as early as February.

"We're at a fork in the road," Central Point Community Development Director Tom Humphrey said Monday. "This site has been on the shovel-ready list for a long time. "Things could get rolling as early as next month."

If no opposition emerges during today's hearing and the commission gives the project its blessing, there will be a two-week window for appeals. After that, Humphrey said, the decision would become final at the close of business Jan. 20.

"Costco would have the green light to submit engineering plans to prepare the site," he said. "During the pre-application meetings, we tried to invite everyone to the table. We wanted to know what they think we needed to address in traffic, storm water runoff, infrastructure and economics. We did it early enough so they could make their assessments."

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at City Hall, 140 S. Third St.

Unlike past big-box proposals that circulated through the town, Costco's footprint won't be adjacent to residential areas. That was the undoing of efforts to build a Walmart near Bear Creek on East Pine Street.

"Pine Street just didn't lend itself to multiple big boxes," Humphrey said. "Out there, Costco will have smaller light industrial and business park uses nearby; it's not surrounded by residential neighborhoods."

If Costco gains approval, it could be in operation by the end of the year. The company's move from its Crater Lake Highway warehouse in northeast Medford has been rumored for years. It was making strides toward relocating to northwest Medford between Northgate Marketplace and Sage Road west of the Big X when traffic flow and other issues led Costco to pull its application in May and seek an alternative site.

By mid-summer, Costco was in hot pursuit of the 18.28 acres where Medford and Central Point abut west of the airport.

"We annexed this land very early and have been working with SOREDI for a long time looking for someone to develop it," Humphrey said.

Developer Cris Galpin put in streets and other infrastructure, paving the way for Federal Express to put in a ground delivery terminal in 2009 that was recently expanded.

Costco's entrance would be on the northeast corner, facing Biddle Road. The submission calls for 783 parking spots, although it will have fewer bicycle stalls than the city generally desires. Central Point's staff findings indicated 16, rather than 54, bike stalls should suffice.

"Bicycle traffic to the warehouse is typically generated by employees due to the impracticality of carrying bulk goods by bicycle," the report stated.

Among the responses from local entities, the city of Medford said the potential for collisions would increase at the intersection of Biddle Road and Airport Road, while it anticipates a 20 percent jump in peak-hour traffic where Table Rock Road meets Morningside Street.  

Nearby streets and roads will be expanded in coming months and years, and Humphrey said Costco has indicated it's willing to deal with the road projects and disruption.

"One impetus for us to compete for public funding for Table Rock Road and Airport Way was that our region has anticipated something was going in here for years," Humphrey said. "We're very fortunate to get Costco; it's a good match for the zoning district it's in, and when you look at the variety of ways people can come to the property, that's a good fit, as well."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31