Marketplace moves forward

While work on the new Kroger Marketplace exterior at the old Dolly Madison Bakery site is nearly complete, months of interior construction still remain.

Kroger is planning to open the new 125,000-square-foot, $20 million store no later than Dec. 31, said John Elliott, public affairs manager for the Kroger Co. Central Division.

Most of the exterior construction and masonry on the new Marketplace has been completed — with work crews now turning their attention to interior drywall work, Elliot said. Utilities have been installed, with the exception of some hanging light fixtures, he added.

Once internal structural work is completed in June, workers will begin installing specific fixtures starting with larger, permanent items such as walk-in coolers and food preparation areas in the deli, Elliott said.

Plans to build a bigger Kroger facility in Columbus were driven by demand at the current location at the junction of National Road and Central Avenue.

“They (the existing Kroger store) are currently doing a technically impossible volume of sales by industry standards,” Elliott said.

Each Kroger store has a hypothetical maximum volume of food it should be capable of selling each day, according to the company. The existing National Road location is selling many more tons of product more than it should be capable of handling, Elliott said.

There is no clear reason for this exceptional level of demand, Elliott said. There are a number of densely populated residential neighborhoods in the area, and the store is likely serving customers in a wide region outside of Columbus, he said.

In either case, the expansion is a necessary move for Kroger in Columbus, he said. Market research at the existing Kroger store shows sales comparable to grocery stores in much more heavily populated cities such as Indianapolis, Elliott said.

More than groceries

But the Marketplace will be more than a grocery store, Elliott said.

As one of the company’s flagship outlets, it will include separate, store-like departments specializing in everything from baby clothes to small appliances such as blenders.

Six trained chefs will supply restaurant-quality food for a small bistro area with selections ranging from sandwiches to full hot meals, Elliott said.

Two similar locations already exist in Indianapolis at the intersection of Emerson Avenue and County Line Road and 5350 East Thompson Road.

Each Marketplace store brings in about 200 new jobs, Elliott said. All of the employees at the current store will have the option to transfer to work at the new Kroger Marketplace, Elliott said.

This store will also support Kroger’s new online grocery shopping service, which allows shoppers to order their groceries through the company’s website for curbside pick-up.

Finalizing the signs

Kroger officials continue to finalize some signage details for the new Marketplace, and its plans to leave the Kroger gas station where it is currently located across from the Marketplace on Central Avenue.

Members of the Columbus Board of Zoning Appeals said Kroger is allowed a freestanding sign at each of the major entry points into the parking lot of the new store. One sign is planned along Central Avenue, while the other is planned on National Road.

Kroger had requested a variance to local zoning ordinances allowing installation of smaller displays below each sign showing gas prices at the Kroger gas station along Central Avenue. This location is not on the same parcel or side of the road as the new store.

During the staff report to the zoning appeals board, Melissa Begley, assistant city-county planning director, raised concerns this could be confusing for drivers on both Central and National Road.

In one case, the price display could cause drivers to turn into new parking lot from National Road, forcing them to weave through the outlet’s parking lot in search of the off-premise gas station, Begley said. In the other, the price display could cause drivers along Central Avenue to shift into the wrong lane, believing the gas station to be in the store’s main parking area, rather than across the street, she added.

The board agreed with Begley, voting unanimously to reject allowing Kroger to put the gas prices on its signs at the Marketplace store.

Kroger does not plan to dispute the decision, said Paula Gantner, Kroger Engineering Co.’s representative at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Zoning board members did approve allowing Jackson County Bank to add its sign to the approved Kroger signs at the new Marketplace site. The bank is building a new branch in an out-lot of the Kroger Marketplace parking lot.

Timeline for new Kroger Marketplace

April 2014: Kroger announces that it will build a Marketplace store, a $20 million investment, at the vacant Dolly Madison property on North National Road in Columbus.

Nov. 20, 2014: Kroger finalizes the purchase of the 11.5-acre site at 3060 N. National Road for $3.3 million from Flowers Baking Co. LLC.

June 22, 2015: Demolition of the former Dolly Madison retail store begins.

June 29, 2015: Demolition of the remainder of the Dolly Madison property begins.

Beginning of October, 2015: Construction on the new Kroger Marketplace begins.

End of March: Exterior construction completed, interior dry wall work starts.

June: Installation of fixtures including freezers and deli equipment expected to begin

Before Dec 31: New Marketplace expected to open.