It's been more than two years since Kroger purchased a former Big Bear grocery store at the Town and Country Shopping Center in Whitehall, but the city has only a vacant lot to show for it.

In February 2017, Kroger purchased the former Big Bear on the north side of East Broad Street at the western end of the shopping center.

Kroger bought the 8.2-acre site at 3680 E. Broad St. for $4.2 million, according to Franklin County Auditor's Office records.

The former Big Bear store had been vacant since 2004.

It was demolished in late 2017; the lot remains vacant today, leaving some Whitehall residents wondering when they'll see the new Kroger store promised by the company.

Kroger leaders, however, say a new store is still in the works.

"We have purchased the property and have completed demolition," said Amy McCormick, corporate affairs manager for the Kroger Co. "However, the project timeline is continuing to evolve."

A tax-increment-financing agreement Whitehall approved to entice Kroger to relocate its current store from the south side of East Broad Street to Town and Country remains in play.

The 15-year, 53% TIF agreement Whitehall City Council approved in 2016 for Kroger has been amended, extending the deadline to begin construction from the end of 2018 to the end of 2021, said Whitehall Development Director Zach Woodruff.

The tax deal commences on completion of construction, Woodruff said.

Kroger is expected to invest about $24 million in the project to build a new, 105,000-square-foot store at Town and Country, Woodruff said.

Kroger currently operates a 65,000-square-foot store at 3675 E. Broad St., on the south side of East Broad Street, across the street from Town and Country.

Kroger leases its current store from Plaza Properties, McCormick said.

Woodruff said April 16 that the city continues to "look forward to a partnership with Kroger."

"We remain in contact with Kroger on their timeline," he said, including extending the term of the TIF agreement when the company informed the city construction would be delayed.

Meanwhile, a vacant lot is preferred to a vacant storefront as the city waits for the move, Woodruff said.

If and when it opens at Town and Country, the new store would offer greater amenities, according to Kroger officials.

"Kroger plans to reconfigure the (new) site to provide shoppers with a larger store to better serve their needs with a drive-through pharmacy, fuel center, expanded kosher offerings, as well as ClickList, (our) exclusive online grocery-ordering service," Lindsey Taylor, real estate manager for the Columbus division of the Kroger Co., said in March 2017, shortly after Kroger closed on the purchase of the site for the new store.

Meanwhile, a new, 100,000-square-foot Kroger store has begun to rise in Reynoldsburg.

The store at East Main Street and Rosehill Road is expected to open in late fall, coinciding with the closure of a smaller store at 6962 E. Main St.

In Upper Arlington, however, some residents and city leaders are frustrated four years after Kroger bought a former Macy's store at Kingsdale Shopping Center.

The site remains vacant, spurring city leaders to suggest options such as forcing the demolition of vacant buildings after a defined period of inactivity, or placing further restrictions on where and how new big-box retail spaces can be built in the city.

Kroger has never submitted plans for developing the Upper Arlington site.

"Kroger is still in the process of developing the plans for this site and continues to work with the city," McCormick said last month. "No timeline has been set for plan submission."

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo