The former TOP Food and Drug store on Kent’s East Hill has set empty for 10 years. But that’s about to change.
Harbor Freight Tools plans to open a 15,000-square-foot store at the Canyon Ridge Plaza, which includes Target and Ross Dress for Less. The space at 26015 104th Ave. SE, has been empty since 2013 when TOP Food and Drug closed down.
“The building sold and there are going to be three (retail) spaces,” Kent Mayor Dana Ralph said during a March 2 business update talk at the Kent Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Green River College campus at Kent Station.
Ralph said Harbor Freight is moving into one of the spaces. Harbor Freight has a Kent location at 18128 East Valley Highway and a Federal Way store at South 320th Street and Pacific Highway South. Calabasas, California-based Harbor Freight, with more than 1,300 stores, features automotive, air and power tools, storage, outdoor power equipment, generators, welding supplies, shop equipment, hand tools and much more.
“We’re planning to open sometime mid-summer,” said Craig Hoffman, Harbor Freight Tools spokesperson, in a March 6 email.
It will be the company’s fifth store in King County and 34th in Washington state. The store will employ 25 to 30, Hoffman said.
“We’ve been looking to add a second location in Kent for a while now, but we always believe in waiting until we find a location that meets our needs and the needs of our customers: good visibility, easy access, ample parking and the right square footage,” Hoffman said.
Ralph said a grocer could be coming to one of the other two spaces at the location. She said she had no further details.
“We’re very excited to have that space reactivated,” Ralph said.
Ralph also updated several other business-related topics during her presentation:
Blue Origin top employer
Kent remains an aerospace center with Blue Origin employing more than 4,000, which make it the largest employer in the city, Ralph said.
“That’s a lot of people,” Ralph said. “It’s a lot of jobs, everything from entry level up to rocket scientist, which means people in the Valley are spending their money and they are looking for employees all the time.”
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, opened Blue Origin in Kent in 2020. The company expanded its headquarters in 2020 to a 236,000-square-foot blue-colored facility along 76th Avenue South between South 212th and South 228th streets.
Blue Origin launched its first rides into space in 2021 and eventually plans to have people living and working in space. NASA, earlier this year, awarded Blue Origin a contract to study the magnetic field around Mars with a launch target date of late 2024. Amazon selected the company in 2o22 to help launch internet satellites.
Ralph also mentioned Kent is the home to Starfish Space and Stoke Space Technologies, two of the newer Kent Valley companies started by former Blue Origin engineers. Ralph said those companies help to continue to make Kent a center of the aerospace industry ever since Boeing developed the Lunar Rover Vehicles used in Apollo Missions 15, 16 and 17 in 1971 and 1972.
Over half of the aerospace jobs in the state are in the Kent Valley, Ralph said.
Kaiser Permanente on hold
The former Kmart property along the West Valley Highway, just south of West Meeker Street, remains at a standstill as the city awaits word for when Kaiser Permanente plans to build its health clinic.
“It was torn down awhile ago,” Ralph said. “Kaiser bought it during the pandemic which changed how people get health care. We are hopeful that this spring they will be in for permits and build that clinic.”
Kaiser Permanente bought the property in December 2020 for $15 million and announced in January 2021 plans for a potential primary care, mental health and wellness facility. But the company hasn’t released any timeline for when construction might start.
City staff remains in negotiations with Seattle-based developer Avenue 55 to build a technology center on the city-owned, vacant Naden property, 7.7 acres just north of Willis Street, south of West Meeker Street and east of Highway 167.
The Kent City Council authorized staff in March 2022 to negotiate a development agreement and a purchase and sale agreement with Avenue 55, which presented a list of interested tenants last year. City officials want nonprofits to operate out of the center as well.
Bill Ellis, city economic development director, said at the Chamber meeting that city staff is looking at ways to help nonprofits be able to afford to be part of the new development.
Ralph said the project will be moving forward.
“Stay tune, there will be news coming,” Ralph said. “We are working on it. We are working with Avenue 55 on a combination of manufacturing technology type commercial spaces and education spaces, a partnership letting kids see what they are studying and making it into a career and making sure we can align those two issues. We are making progress.”