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Kmart building

The former Kmart building at 24th Street West and Central Avenue will be torn down to make way for a new WinCo Foods store later this year.

LARRY MAYER, Gazette Staff

WinCo Foods, the grocery store chain moving into the old Kmart property on 24th Street West and Central Avenue, filed plans Monday with the city's Building Division for permits to build its store. 

The paperwork includes plans for a traditional, large grocery store just more than 88,100 square feet and estimated to cost $6.8 million. It also sketches out site improvements to the vast parking lot already on the site that include landscaping and better storm drainage. 

WinCo would demolish the Kmart building and construct a new grocery store from the ground up. WinCo would own the store; the land would be leased to WinCo by Modakco LLC of Rapid City, South Dakota, which owns the property.

It can be a weeks-long process for the permits to be approved and issued as each city department affected by the store's potential building project must sign off. Once the city approves the project and permits are issued, WinCo would then have a six-month window to begin work, meaning construction would likely begin in late spring or early summer. 

The store would be WinCo's first in Montana. However, it's not the first time the company has shown interest in the state. 

In April 2016, WinCo announced plans to build a store in Bozeman. By November of that year, the company had withdrawn its plan, citing the city's design requirements, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.

Around the time the company withdrew from Bozeman, WinCo announced plans to build a store in Helena. The company owns 10 acres there and had planned to build a 84,975-square-foot store. In March 2017 those plans were put on hold before the permitting process began. 

WinCo's submission of completed, detailed plans to Billings' Building Division is a step that demonstrates some commitment on the part of the grocery chain — filing plans with the city to seek building permits carries a $10,000 fee, which WinCo has paid.

The company declined earlier this month to comment on the project. 

WinCo Foods is an employee-owned company with 113 stores across the Northwest, Utah, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma. The closest to Billings is its store in Idaho Falls, Idaho. 

Billings Waremart store, 1977

A Waremart discount grocery store occupied space in the same building at the West End KMart in the late 1970s.

The company was founded in 1967 under the name Waremart Foods, according to WinCo's website. In the mid-1970s, a Waremart occupied the space to the south of Kmart in Billings. When the Waremart closed, Kmart expanded into the space, according to Gazette archives.

Waremart changed its name to WinCo in 1999.


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