Home USA News Is this long-closed storefront turning into a Trader Joe’s?

Is this long-closed storefront turning into a Trader Joe’s?

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Several new stores are coming to the Columbia Center section of the mall, but the identity of one of them is apparently protected by a non-disclosure agreement.

What could require such secrecy? Why would a retailer make a developer sign a non-disclosure agreement?

The secret may have slipped in a design rendering presented by Kennewick planners earlier this year.

Over the summer, a feasibility study between the city and Wave Design revealed plans to split the former Toys ‘R Us building into three new storefronts: A Sierra Trading Post, an unnamed business and possibly a future restaurant.

An unnamed business was included in one of the design images. The sign says Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe's rendering
This rendering from Wave Design Group appears to show Trader Joe’s as part of the renovation of the Toys ‘R Us building at Columbia Center Mall. Wave Design Group

The meeting was attended by city planning staff and two representatives from Wave Design Group, according to a registration sheet and a public audio recording of the session.

During the meeting, the developer said Sierra is locked down and they hope to get confirmation from another business within a month, but that they can’t say what it was because they entered into a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA.

Sierra is owned by TJX, the parent company of TJ Maxx, HomeGoods and Marshalls. They specialize in affordable outerwear.

According to the presented technical and economic plan, the building will be divided into:

  • The 16,500-square-foot store is next to a former Ulta beauty outlet that will likely be Sierra.
  • An 8,000-square-foot space that could eventually be used as a restaurant.
  • And a 13,000-square-foot store on the far corner on West Quinault Avenue. The latter is the space indicated by the Trader Joe’s sign.

“We’re hoping to have the faraway thing online within 30 days, but we can’t talk about it or we’ll have to kill you guys and then kill ourselves,” a developer representative joked during the meeting. .

At that moment, someone from the meeting pointed to the artist’s visualization.

“If you zoom in, you can see it,” they said.

Trader Joe's zoomed in
This rendering from Wave Design Group appears to show Trader Joe’s as part of the renovation of the Toys ‘R Us building at Columbia Center Mall. The image has been enlarged to focus on the Trader Joe’s design. Wave Design Group

“I don’t see anything,” the developer replied, prompting laughter.

“That bottom shot, is that the one facing Kino?” asked another man, referring to the same shop.

The former ToysRUS building Kennewick1.jpg
The former Toys R Us building at Columbia Center Mall in Kennewick. Bob Brody bbrawdy@tricityherald.com

The Herald contacted Trader Joe’s on Thursday about their plans.

“We are looking at a lot of places. All soon-to-open locations are listed on our website. Unfortunately, Kennewick is currently not listed,” said a company representative.

Evelyn Lusignan, public affairs manager for the city of Kennewick, said it’s not uncommon for construction plans to be submitted without a name. She said the developer has only approached the city for a feasibility study on Sierra so far, and that city staff have not signed an NDA.

“We would love to see Trader Joe’s come to Kennewick and promote our town with them for many years to come,” Lusignan said.

Lusignan also noted that renderings sometimes include infills for other stores, and that the city has yet to receive permit applications for the building or any of the three potential businesses.

Since only technical and economic plans have been submitted so far, it is unclear when capital renovation works will begin or when new stores will open.

This wouldn’t be the first attempt to bring Trader Joe’s to the Tri-Cities.

Developers involved in both the Broadmoor development and Osprey Pointe in Pasco previously told the Herald they were interested in trying to plug the popular grocer.

Simon Property Group owns the Columbia Center mall, including the mall that once housed Toys R Us. The toy company closed its 800 stores, including the Kennewick store, in 2018 after filing for bankruptcy.

The closing comes months after Sears and Shopko in the Columbia Center area closed their doors.

This story was originally published November 10, 2022 at 5:24 p.m.

Corey is an award-winning investigative journalist. He joined the Tri-City Herald in December 2021 as an editor/reporter covering housing and development issues. His past work can be found in the Tyler Morning Telegraph and other Texas newspapers. He was a 2019-20 Education Writers Association Fellow and has been featured on The Murder Tapes, Grave Mysteries and Crime Watch Daily with Chris Hansen.

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