WARRENTON?- Construction work has begun at the new Costco site on U.S. Highway 101.

The new store, scheduled to open in November, is going up on a 20-acre parcel across the highway from Home Depot. It is one of several new developments making progress in Warrenton.

Warrenton Costco store assistant general manager Jeff?Hazen, also a Clatsop County commissioner, said the new building will be 134,000 square feet - nearly twice the size of the existing store - and will require about 50 additional employees. It will include optical and hearing centers, a full food court and a service deli. It will also carry the remaining 20 percent of Costco merchandise missing from the smaller store, which sits next to Fred Meyer in Warrenton.

"We're excited," said Hazen. "Sixteen years I've been waiting for this."

When credit markets buckled last year, Costco's development plans started looking a little shaky. In March, Mercer Island, developer Wes Giesbrecht, of North Coast Retail LLC (formerly Atlin Investments), told the Clatsop County Board of?Commissioners he was having trouble getting financing and asked if he could pay half the $8,653,000 asking price for property up front and half a year after the closing. The board said yes, and the purchase went forward.

The economy raised some questions on Costco's side of the deal, too.

"When the economy started to slow, Costco as a whole put a lot of projects on hold," said Hazen. "But the prices came down so significantly, the cost of raw materials came down so low that it made sense for us to go ahead and move forward."

Robinson Construction Co. of Hillsboro is the general contractor for the construction job, and Ken Leahy Construction of Cornelius is doing the groundwork. Custom Excavating of Warrenton did some initial site preparation.

The current Costco building is for sale, Hazen said. It is one of the smallest Costco stores in the U.S. The company built it to test the market, and it long since proved to be a success. It will remain open until the new store comes online.

There will be two entrances to the Costco shopping center, one from U.S. Highway 101 at the stoplight installed for the Home Depot intersection and one on the other side of the Costco property at 19th Street. The county plans to build a road from 19th Street to Alternate Highway 101, through the roughly 55-acre undeveloped section of the North Coast Business Park. Hazen said the access from Highway 101 will give the new store better visibility than the old location, "and eventually there will be a lot of build out with other businesses. ... A?lot of businesses like to locate by Costco because of the traffic we generate."

Across the highway, a Staples office supplies store, a Dollar Tree and Big 5 Sporting Goods are scheduled to be built near the Home Depot. However, one of the parcels next to the Home Depot site that had been slated for a restaurant development is now up for sale.

Warrenton Planning Director Carol Parker said the developer of that site "obviously hasn't gotten any takers for the restaurant."

Parker said she has received a pre-application for another business that is looking to build next to Costco, but she hasn't gotten all the information that would allow her to share the name of the business.

Another unknown development is making headway up the highway next to the Les Schwab Tire Center. Martin Nygaard, owner of Warrenton Fiber, has proposed a 153,239 square foot retail development with 656 parking spaces and 50 to 100 full-time jobs whose identity has not been revealed.

Nygaard has a 10-acre parcel near Shilo Inn off East Harbor Drive in Warrenton that he is also eying for development that has not been identified.

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