Just when will Rite Aid open in Kent valley?

Nearly one year after construction of the building, it still remains uncertain when a new Rite Aid drugstore will open in Kent at the corner of Meeker Street and Washington Avenue.

The building for a new Rite Aid on the corner of West Meeker and Washington Avenue sits empty for now.

Nearly one year after construction of the building, it still remains uncertain when a new Rite Aid drugstore will open in Kent at the corner of Meeker Street and Washington Avenue.

“It will be opening this year,” said Rite Aide spokeswoman Ashley Flower in a phone interview Friday from the company’s headquarters in Camp Hill, Pa.

Flower said she did not have a more specific date.

“We’re moving forward with the city to get final approval,” Flower said. “We might know more in a couple of weeks.”

But city officials said Thursday that Rite Aid has approval from the city to open.

“As far as we know they put in all of the fixtures and have a temporary certificate to start stocking it,” said Mike Gillespie, engineering development manager for the city’s public works department. “We heard they were going to open in April.”

A driveway-access conflict between the owners of Rite Aid and city officials was behind the initial delayed opening. The store has been sitting empty since last summer, with banners announcing it was “coming soon.”

Rite Aid officials had wanted the city to allow an immediate left turn into the store’s parking lot after vehicles southbound on Washington Avenue turn right into the Meeker Square Shopping Center driveway.

City officials denied their request, noting the potential for traffic to back up on Washington Avenue if even one vehicle had to wait to turn left into the store’s proposed driveway.

Under the current design, drivers southbound on Washington can turn right on a driveway into the shopping center and then must drive around the Rite Aid store to access the parking lot.

Drivers also can access the store from Meeker Street with left or right turns into the shopping center.

“What they have built is what was approved,” Gillespie said. “We’re assuming it was accepted by them. They have not asked us for another change.”

When told city officials had said the store has approval to open, Flower said the store also has its own steps to take before opening, such as getting the merchandise to stock the shelves.

Even Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke has fielded several phone calls from residents asking when the store would open. She mentioned the store in her State of the City address to the City Council on March 18 when she said the city and Rite Aid had worked out their differences and the store should open by mid-April.

Flower told the Kent Reporter in December that Rite Aid officials were working with the city to resolve the driveway-access options. She had no estimate on an opening date at that time either.

Matt Sweeney, manager of the Meeker Square Shopping Center for Prium Companies of Tacoma, did not return phone messages last week asking what he knew about the delay.

Rite Aid has three other stores in Kent — two on the East Hill and one on the West Hill.

Rite Aid has more than 5,000 stores in 31 states. The company opened its first store in 1962 in Scranton, Pa., and expanded to the West Coast in 1996.

Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or shunter@reporternewspapers.com.

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