Customers at a Kroger store that's been proposed for the Town and Country Shopping Center may be able to shop from behind the wheel.

Customers at a Kroger store that's been proposed for the Town and Country Shopping Center may be able to shop from behind the wheel.

A new online ordering system that allows customers to use a mobile app to order and pay for groceries in advance, then have them delivered to their vehicle upon arrival is among the amenities planned at the new store should the company move forward, Kroger officials said.

Whitehall City Council on April 19 approved special permits required for Kroger to operate a gas station and a drive-through pharmacy at the site, and also approved a property-tax incentive to entice Kroger to move from its current site at 3675 E. Broad St., on the south side of East Broad Street, across the street to the site of the former Big Bear store at Town and Country.

"We are excited about this project and it will be a wonderful addition to Whitehall and the Town and County shopping center," said Charles Fraas of the Columbus-based developer CASTO.

However, Kroger has not conclusively determined it will build at the site.

Jennifer Jarrell, media and government relations for Kroger, said Friday, April 22, that Kroger has not purchased the property and is continuing to "determine the feasibility" of the project.

"But we want to purchase it this year" if Kroger moves forward, Jarrell said.

Zach Woodruff, development director for Whitehall, said the city offered the incentive as part of its continuing commercial revitalization of thoroughfares, and specifically to reimagine the western end of the Town and County Shopping Center.

Kroger plans to build a 105,000-square-foot store, a fueling center and a drive-through pharmacy on the footprint of three vacant buildings at Town and Country, said Heidi Rose, senior project engineer for Bird + Bull Engineers and Surveyors.

The new Kroger at Town and County would not be of the Marketplace variety but a standard store -- yet almost twice the size of the store it would replace, Jarrell said.

Kroger's current store on East Broad Street is 65,000 square feet.

Kroger also has a store at 850 S. Hamilton Road in Whitehall.

The former Big Bear store at the far west end of Town and Country would be demolished along with several other vacant storefronts to its immediate east, Woodruff said.

The former Big Bear has been vacant for about a decade.

Kroger's investment in the project is estimated at $24 million, Woodruff said.

The new investment will invigorate the area and reverse a trend, he said.

The vacant storefronts at the western end of Town and County "give a negative misconception of where Whitehall is going," Woodruff said.

"The redevelopment of the west end of Town and Country is fundamentally important as we continue the revitalization of Whitehall," he said.

In addition to special permits required for the fueling station and drive-through pharmacy, legislation approved April 19 established a tax-increment financing district for the Town and Country parcel and approved the property-tax incentive.

It provides a 53 percent property-tax exemption for a period of 15 years, commencing the first year after construction is complete, Woodruff said, and establishes an urban-development TIF.

The 30-year, non-school TIF will redirect property tax on the incremental increase in property value to reimburse the developer for expenses including but not limited to the demolition necessary for the project to advance, Woodruff said.

As part of the deal, the city will pay Whitehall schools 50 percent of the income tax of all new employees at Kroger related to its expansion for 15 years, Woodruff said.

Woodruff said the city had not been appraised of a start date for the project.

"There are some things they need to do at the corporate level, but the city approving all it needs to on our end will certainly facilitate the process," Woodruff said April 22.