Aldi gets approval to proceed with store at Upper Arlington's Kingsdale Shopping Center

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Aldi Inc. received approval Nov. 16 from the Upper Arlington Board of Zoning and Planning to move forward with an 18,726-square-foot grocery store at 3280 Tremont Road.

Upper Arlington is expected to have a new grocery option after Aldi recently received the go-ahead for store near the Five Points intersection.

Representatives for Aldi Inc. haven’t announced when renovations will start for the 18,026-square-foot store at 3280 Tremont Road, but city officials expect a quick start to the process at the Kingsdale Shopping Center. 

“We expect building permits to be submitted very soon,” said Justin Milam, Upper Arlington senior planner. “They will remove the metal roof above the former bookstore and CVS, and then replace with the proposed storefronts shown in the renderings.

“The sides and rear of the building will be painted, and then the loading areas will be screened with fencing.”

The discount-grocery store is moving into the site of the former Barnes & Noble bookstore, which closed this past summer.

The company received approval of its final development plan Nov. 16 by a 6-1 vote of the city’s Board of Zoning and Planning.

Aldi officials declined to say when the store is expected to open or why the company has decided to open a store in Upper Arlington. According to its website, Aldi has 19 stores in the Columbus area. 

Echoing a comment she provided Oct. 27 after Upper Arlington announced on the city’s website and social media Aldi was eyeing the site, Sarah Brown, Aldi division vice president, said, “At this time, we do not have any information to share about a potential ALDI store opening in Upper Arlington. As soon as there are any updates regarding ALDI stores in that area, we will reach out.”

In addition to the construction for an Aldi store, the plans call for the facade for that store and neighboring CVS, at 3282 Tremont Road, to be upgraded.

“The grocery store would like to take over the former Barnes & Noble space, and then since that’s happening, CVS would go under a facelift, as well,” Milam said.

The project would yield 145 parking spaces and an existing, exit-only egress on Northwest Boulevard will be narrowed to discourage drivers from trying to enter the site through it.

“It currently is an exit-only, but I agree with (city officials),” said Russ White, Aldi director of real estate. “It’s way too wide and people just fly in there.”

Before the approval of the development plans, Aldi agreed to divert from “Aldi-prototypical” building exterior materials and incorporated a combination of red and gray brick to match surrounding commercial sites.

The company also catered to city requests to reduce a heart logo on CVS signage by more than 40 square feet and place new mechanical units the project will yield in the center of the Aldi rooftop to obscure their visibility from the ground.

“I feel like we’ve worked harmoniously together on the business side and that we’ve gotten direction and we’ve tried to meet every aspect of those requests that we can,” White said.

One adjustment Aldi did not make at the city’s behest was to incorporate a second floor or second building on the site that would provide the development with a mix of uses, including professional offices that generate more income-tax revenue for the city than do retail jobs.

According to a Nov. 16 staff report from Milam to BZAP, the city’s master plan for the area, known also as the “Kingsdale Triangle,” calls for it “to be a town center with a mix of uses, including office, retail, residential and civic.”

Despite bringing a new grocer to the area when past market studies have shown support for adding grocery options as well as “overwhelmingly positive reactions to the proposal from the community,” the Community Development Department staff provided a “neutral” recommendation related to the proposal.

“The challenge for staff is recognizing the need for improvements to this center and filling a large, vacant retail space, while also balancing the master plan’s desire to create a pedestrian-oriented, multi-story, mixed-use development on this site and others around it,” the report stated. “Similar to past retail center renovations like the Scioto View Center, Kingsdale Shopping Center and Shops on Lane Avenue, and in combination with the significant redevelopment project only 200 feet away and a number of requested variances, staff cannot fully support this application.”

BZAP’s lone dissenting vote came from Kevin Carpenter, who pointed to the proposal’s failures to meet master-plan objectives.

“My biggest issue is the city has a master plan in place,” Carpenter said. “We’re trying to implement goals for the future.

“(Aldi’s plan) is basically just a refresh of what we have there. With all that’s going on in the area, I was hoping for something a little more forward thinking.”

Among the projects slated for the area is a tentative plan by Continental Real Estate Cos. to redevelop the 6.23-acre site at Kingsdale that formerly housed Macy’s.

Continental CEO Frank Kass has said he plans to purchase the property from Kroger Co. and build a six-story building with 104 senior-housing units on the northwest portion of the site with a 6,000-square-foot restaurant. He also has preliminary plans for a seven-story building to the east of the property, along Northwest Boulevard, that would have five floors of 383 apartments, and a nine-story building on the southwest portion of the site that would have 75, two-bedroom apartments and 50,000 square feet of office space on the top two floors.

While no other BZAP members objected to Aldi’s plans, Dennis Carney, who said he’s lived near the Aldi site on Bembridge Road for 26 years, said city officials are being insensitive to how the development at Kingsdale will impact neighboring residents.

“When do all the residents that live adjacent to all of these developments we’re talking about do well?” Carney said. “I’m here to ask you to oppose or delay the decision on the approval of the Aldi plan until the magnitude of the Macy’s development is fully understood.

“We’re concerned about the quality of life in the neighborhood, the safety of our kids and the routing of traffic.”

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate