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Commercial units remain unoccupied on Sequim's east side

While the Bell Creek Plaza near QFC continues to resemble a ghost town, several large developments are in the works for the opposite end of Washington Street.

The plaza on Sequim's east side has five vacant commercial units, including the former liquor store location and Big Lots-turned-furniture-store, some of which have sat empty for more than a year.

Property manager Mike Foley said 20,000 square feet of retail space is available at the plaza. Foley said some of the businesses closed as a direct result of the housing industry collapse and economy, while others moved their businesses, like Fifth Avenue Furniture.

"Right now the economy is a little flat but people are beginning to show interest," he said. "They're realizing the economy will turn around."

Other east side vacancies include the Clallam County Public Utilities District building, which has been empty since December 2006. PUD executive communications director Michael Howe said the building was vacated due to mold and while the mold was removed, the PUD doesn't know what it will do with the building.

A former dental office then mortgage and investment business at 435 E. Washington St., listed through Sun Valley Realty, has been vacant for nearly three months. Steve Smith said the building is set up for medical practices and has a unique atrium in the front. Several medical professionals have shown interest in the building but none have moved forward yet, he said.

The former Swain's Outdoor building remains vacant, along with the former First Federal building and the old Hollywood Video store. All are listed with Team McAleer of RE/MAX Fifth Avenue.

While the former Pizza Factory and a couple of small units near Walmart are vacant, two large commercial projects on Sequim's west end are laying the groundwork to begin in 2011.

Madison Sequim LLC submitted a building permit application June 15 to build a Ross Dress for Less and Grocery Outlet in the vacant lots between Costco and The Home Depot. Tom Lee, representing Madison Sequim LLC, said the permitting process for the 45,000-square-foot project is ongoing and they should have a timeline for construction in October.

Walmart also submitted a building permit for a 36,000-square-foot expansion to the existing store.

Walmart spokesman Jennifer Spall said plans were submitted to the city of Sequim for the expansion, which will include a full grocery section. Spall said for an expansion of that size, Walmart typically hires an additional 85 employees.

Once the expansion is approved and the construction contract awarded, construction likely will take nine to 12 months. Completion is expected in 2012 but no specific timeline has been set, she said.

A commercial development at Washington Street and Second Avenue is expected to be completed in the next few months. The project, by Olympic View Properties, includes five retail units and a restaurant site.

Owner Brown Maloney said one lease has been signed so far and there is strong interest for a second lease. He can't name the company yet, he said.

Maloney said he never expected the building would be leased out immediately upon its completion and he wants to ensure tenants are the right fit for downtown Sequim.

The east end of the 12,000- square-foot building is expected to be completed in early November while the rest, except the restaurant and central retail unit, will be completed in early December, he said. The restaurant and central retail unit will remain unfinished so tenants can make their own improvements to cater to the specific vision they have for their business, he said.

Maloney said the community as a whole has expressed interest in the building and is happy to see something like it built in downtown Sequim.

Maloney said the other 20,000 square feet of commercial space he owns on Washington Street downtown is fully occupied and has been very stable.

"I think the downtown core will only strengthen," he said.

Reach Amanda Winters at awinters@sequim

gazette.com.

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