Kroger abandons plans for new store at Town & Country Shopping Center

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group

Nearly four years after the Kroger Co. purchased a former Big Bear supermarket at the Town & Country Shopping Center in Whitehall as a potential site for a new store, the company announced Friday, Nov. 6, that it is abandoning the plan.

Previous story:Whitehall’s Town & Country: Kroger plans remain static

“Kroger continues to evaluate our capital expenditures and review our project lineup," Amy McCormick, corporate-affairs manager for Kroger said Nov. 6. "As a result, Kroger will not construct a new store at 3680 E. Broad St.

“Kroger will remain at its current site at 3675 E. Broad St. and will explore options to improve that location."

Kroger purchased the 8.2-acre site at 3680 E. Broad St. for $4.2 million in February 2017, according to the Franklin County Auditor’s Office.

Kroger will update its store at 3675 E. Broad St. in Whitehall instead of building a new store at the Town & Country Shopping Center.

Whitehall development director Zach Woodruff said although city officials are “disappointed” in the decision by Kroger, he understood “it was a difficult decision.”

“We are disappointed because we worked with Kroger for a number of years and felt it was a great opportunity for our city and for Kroger, (but) we understand, too, that not moving forward was a difficult decision,” he said.

Woodruff said although he cannot speak for Kroger, he did not think that the company simply would do nothing with the property.

“I think it is safe to say that whoever buys it, we will work with (the buyer) to develop it,” he said. “Until now, the plan was for a new Kroger, (but) we will use the new opportunity to use our master plan as a guide for alternative development."

McCormick said no decisions have been made, but “we are developing an exit strategy for the property.”

The 8.2-acre site once included a Big Bear on the north side of East Broad Street, at the western end of the Town & Country Shopping Center, and the store building had been vacant since 2004 until it was demolished in 2017.

A 15-year, 53% tax-increment-financing-district agreement was approved by Whitehall City Council in 2016, amended to extend its lifespan the end of 2018 and again amended to extend it to the end of 2021, Woodruff said.

Kroger had been expected to invest $24 million in the project to build a new 105,000-square-foot store, Woodruff said last year.

“A lot of things have been interrupted by COVID,” said Woodruff, although McCormick said the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic was not a factor in the decision.

Among many things, COVID-19 has taught the need to be flexible in planning, Woodruff said.

Kroger’s plan never seemed to have had a specific timeline.

When asked in November 2019 about the company’s intent, McCormick said: “We have purchased the property and have completed demolition; however, the project timeline is continuing to evolve.”

Kroger's 65,000 square-foot store at 3675 E. Broad St. is on the south side of East Broad Street, across the street from the Town & Country Shopping Center.

“Kroger appreciates the community’s support as it works to redefine the grocery experience and best serve our customers and communities,” McCormick said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo