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Last updated: Fri. Aug. 03, 2012 - 02:22 pm EDT

Fort Wayne gets its wish: Costco plans local store

Would be next to new Kelley Chevrolet on Lima Road

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When The News-Sentinel last year asked readers which store they would most like to see come to Fort Wayne, Costco was near the top of the list.

It appears they will soon get their wish.

The Issaquah, Wash., company has asked the Fort Wayne Plan Commission to approve plans to erect a 149,578-square-foot membership-based store on 29 acres near Lima Road and Interstate 69 formerly occupied by the Seyfert's potato chip plant. If approved by the Commission next month, Costco would share the site with Kelley Chevrolet, which this week filed previously announced plans to relocate to a new $7 million facility from its longtime location at 500 E. State Blvd.

Costco Wholesale Corp. operates 605 warehouse-style stores, including 438 in the U.S. But it has just three in Indiana – two in Indianapolis and one in Merrillville.

“This will be great for Fort Wayne,” Kelley Chevrolet's co-owner Tom Kelley said. “People will drive 100 miles to shop at Costco, which is something we don't currently have. It will bring a lot of people into Fort Wayne, and while they're here, maybe they'll stay and do something else.”

Kelley hopes those activities will include looking at cars in his new showroom, construction of which could begin within two months and be complete by fall 2013.

Kelley told The News-Sentinel in 2011 that General Motors wanted the dealership to move to a more modern, accessible location. But his Lima Road plans were challenged in court by Summit City Chevrolet, which argued that the Seyfert's site was within six miles of its dealership at 5200 Illinois Road – proximity Summit City claimed violated state law. But when the General Assembly changed the law this year, the lawsuit was dropped and Kelley's plans moved ahead.

In addition to a 40,000-square-foot state-of-the-art dealership, the new Kelley Chevrolet will feature a separate car wash facility. A body shop and truck-maintenance operation will remain on State, and Kelley said Midwest Auto Parts will move there as well. The relocation will add as many as 15 people to the dealership's 105-member work force.

“We're really excited. This has been a long time coming,” he said.

Costco is the seventh-largest retailer in the world, reporting net sales of $7.25 billion in July – up 8 percent from 2011 levels. The company opened its first warehouse in Seattle in 1983 and has about 142,000 full- and part-time employees. It has more than 55 million members and is a competitor of other membership warehouses, such as Sam's Club.

A Costco spokeswoman would not comment on the company's plans, including its reasons for selecting Fort Wayne, cost of the store, opening date of the number of jobs to be created.

But City Council President Tom Smith, who suggested last year's survey of Fort Wayne consumers' unmet desires, called Costco's arrival “great news.”

“I'm glad they finally took notice of Fort Wayne,” he said. “When I shop (at Costco) in Indianapolis, I always mention Fort Wayne. I'd like to think our effort (to attract them) made a difference.”

The Plan Commission next month will also consider a plan to bring new activity to the long-closed Kroger store at Spy Run and State Boulevard. Uptown Storage wants to convert the 42,555-square-foot building into a self-storage facility, making two “out lots” available for other developments, including a gas station/convenience store and possibly a fast-food restaurant. The building is owned by Fort Wayne businessman John Tippmann Sr.

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