Plan to revamp former site of Kmart goes to Grove City Council

ALAN FROMAN
afroman@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

The plan for a proposed redevelopment of the former Kmart site on Stringtown Road will be considered by Grove City Council on Monday, June 15.

The development plan developer and property owner Jeff Gregg presented was approved June 2 by the planning commission.

Gregg is planning to renovate the vacant 78,000-square-foot structure to create a commercial building with three tenant spaces, including an Aldi store on the western end of the building.

The Kmart store closed at the end of 2019.

Gregg purchased the property in November 2017 and the retail store leased the space until it closed.

Given Kmart's sliding fortunes, "we knew at some time we would be taking the property back," Gregg said. "We've been planning for this for quite some time."

A number of potential options for redeveloping the site were explored, including demolishing the existing structure and building new retail components while adding some apartment units in the back portion of the site, he said.

Other scenarios that included big-box retail, multi-tenant retail and/or medical uses also were explored, Gregg said.

Both the economics of redeveloping the site and the demand in the marketplace led to the proposed plan presented to the city, he said.

The marketplace wasn't there for medical offices, and the cost would have been prohibitive to demolish the existing structure for the 100 or so apartment units that would have been considered for a mixed-use project, Gregg said.

The development plan proposes a renovation to the existing facade of the building to improve its aesthetics, he said, and attempts "to incorporate as much green space and landscaping as possible.

"We've been very cognizant of the city's request to make good connectivity not only with the apartment site next door but with the walkways to and from Stringtown Road," Gregg said.

The development plan includes crosswalks and pedestrian areas "that help to increase the mixed use pedestrian experience," said Jimmy Hoppel, a planner with the city's development department.

City staff recommended adding a stipulation that benches be added to the sidewalk in front of the retail center to provide a "relaxed-sitting pedestrian area," he said.

Walkways are to be installed leading to and from Stringtown Road, Gregg said, and he and his business partner, Mark Catalano, who is the developer of the apartment project just east of the Kmart site, have already been discussing creating crosswalks between the two sites. That step would meet one of the stipulations recommended in the development department's staff report.

The goal is to give the redevelopment of the Kmart site a "quasi-Town Center" feel, he said.

The development plan includes two deviations from city code, Hoppel said.

The proposed parking spaces are 171 square feet, less than the minimum 180 square feet required by code, he said, and 375 parking spaces are planned, about 16 fewer spaces than required based on the square footage of the building.

City staff members support both deviations, Hoppel said.

Ten stipulations were included as part of the motion to approve the development plan.

One of the stipulations suggested a bicycle rack be installed near the entrance to each tenant space.

Gregg said he doesn't think the site would draw sufficient bicycle traffic to require a rack for each individual tenant space, and he proposed installing one centrally located rack.

The stipulation was amended to call for the developer to work with the city in determining the number of bicycle racks to be installed.

afroman@thisweeknews.com

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