Kroger drops plans for new Springfield Marketplace store

Kroger officials have scrapped a proposal to build a roughly $20 million Marketplace grocery store in Springfield’s southern corridor.

Staff from the city and Chamber of Greater Springfield had touted the project as a major investment that could spur housing and new development south of Interstate 70. Instead, the company will devote resources to boosting technology and making improvements in existing stores, said Erin Rolfes, a spokeswoman for the company.

“We’re basically sinking more of our money into the technology side of the business,” she said.

MORE: Springfield Kroger Marketplace to begin construction in 2018

Kroger Marketplaces are larger than the chain’s traditional grocery store. They usually offer products like clothing and home goods along with groceries. Kroger is a significant employer in Clark County with close to 600 employees at its locations in the county.

Local leaders have been working with the grocery store chain for months and said Thursday they were disappointed with the company’s decision. But they have little choice but to continue to market the area for possible development, said Tom Franzen, assistant city manager and director of economic development for Springfield.

RELATED: Proposed $20M Kroger Marketplace to employ 350 in Springfield

“Its’s a tough time for the company right now,” Franzen said of the competitive grocery store industry. “We’re disappointed but not necessarily discouraged when we look at the the long-term development potential for that corridor. We’ve got a lot of great projects happening in Springfield and that site Kroger was considering and adjacent properties are primed for development. The real estate owners are eager to market their properties as well.”

DETAILS: Local officials look for options to improve housing stock

The chain announced a Restock Kroger initiative last fall, which includes plans to roll out more programs like ClickList and its Scan, Bag, Go program to more stores. ClickList allows customers to order groceries online and pick the delivery up at a local store while Scan, Bag, Go allows customers to scan items as they shop through the store.

The company had initially announced plans last year to move forward with the project and begin construction. But by January, they told the News-Sun the project was on hold while the grocery chain reviewed its strategy.

“With this specific property there is no next step,” Rolfes said. “We’ve communicated with the property owners and we’re moving on.

READ MORE; Housing, worker retention a challenge, Clark County leaders say

According to the company’s website, the Marketplace stores typically range in size from 100,000 to 145,000 square feet and require an investment of about $24 million, including real estate. Along with groceries, the Marketplace stores also typically provide items that range from prepared food to general merchandise including toys, clothing and home goods.

Just last year, Kroger unveiled new marketplace stores in Fairborn and Centerville, and the company has pledged to renovate a store in Huber Heights. Rolfes said she was unaware of plans to make further investments in any of Springfield’s existing stores, but said

“We’re continually reevaluating our stores and looking for new opportunities,” she said.

Clark County has made progress in attracting new jobs in the past couple years, said Michael McDorman, president and CEO of the Chamber of Greater Springfield. But he said the area still has challenges to overcome to attract some retailers, including encouraging new housing development.

“We still lag when it comes to our number of newer rooftops with a marketable income,” McDorman said. “That has an impact on these types of investments. We have put a strong vision plan together around what’s going to happen at that interchange and that corridor, and we fell short.”

Staff from the chamber and local governments have spent a lot of time on the project, but it doesn’t mean the work was a total loss because Kroger backed out, Franzen said.

“The upside here is we’ve actively as a community prepared 100-plus acres for development,” Franzen said. “A lot of times the challenge is being able to react quickly to development inquiries when we receive them. Where we stand now at that site is it’s been annexed, it’s been zoned, utilities are in place and there have been engineering studies and traffic studies that have been done. There’s a lot of work that doesn’t wash away.”

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