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Goodwill eyes major store expansion

The Goodwill Store in Ashland on Tolman Creek Road has received preliminary approval for a large-scale expansion of its retail outlet, scheduled to begin in just over a year. 

The Ashland Planning Commission on Dec. 13 approved the site review, which requests an additional 7,432 square feet to move the donation drop-off to the back of the store, expand the retail and warehouse space, move the parking lot behind the store and bring the store closer to the sidewalk. The existing store is 5,882 square feet. The expanded area would include 3,708 more square feet of retail space, 2,570 square feet of warehouse and a canopied area of 1,134 square feet.

According to the application, the re-design would cost $950,000.

“It’s a substantial addition,” said Associate Planner Derek Severson. "At the staff level we were pleased. This is one of those occasions where it’s fairly rare coming 100 percent into compliance."

The Goodwill store expansion would force the removal of seven trees on the property which would have to be replaced. “In the long run we won’t be losing any tree canopy,” said Severson, noting the Tree Commission approved the removal. 

“First and foremost it will provide a better experience,” said Goodwill CEO Shae Johns. “It will take our current donation to the back of the store which means people aren’t stuck out on Tolman Creek Road. It also will be covered, so people aren’t in the weather unloading their vehicles.”

Johns said Goodwill will open another donation lane and put donations in an enclosed warehouse, as opposed to being outside, and provide a larger retail space. 

She said the expansion and renovation is likely to be good news for staff as well, who currently accept donations outside where they're exposed to rain and wind.

“It’s a nasty place for staff to be in the weather," she said. "This will provide a covered area to work.” 

The plan will come before the Planning Commission on Jan. 10 for approval, which would make it final.

“This doesn’t need council approval,” said Severson.

City Councilor Greg Lemhouse, who is the vice president of workforce development for Goodwill, is the council liaison to the Planning Commission. He did not attend the meeting involving the Goodwill approval and is not a voting member of the Planning Commission. 

Johns said Lemhouse was not involved in the discussion within Goodwill.

"He does not have anything to do with our retail operations and would not have been part of that process,”  she said.

Goodwill also opened The Job Connection in June and a boutique retail outlet, Good and Will, in November.

Johns said other downtown merchants have been supportive. “All the feedback from our neighbors has been positive.”

Sandra Slattery from the Ashland Chamber of Commerce agreed.

“I think that Goodwill is offering an alternative for people interested in re-sale," Slattery said. "I don’t think people see it as competition, they see as an addition to offerings.”

Johns said the Goodwill board will vote on the Tolman Creek retail store expansion in January and would hope to have the project done in 2018.

Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at julieanneakins@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.

An artist's conception shows an aerial view of what the Goodwill store on Tolman Creek Road (foreground) would look like if plans go ahead. Bi-Mart is to the right of what's pictured here.