SYCAMORE – City officials first announced plans for a new Meijer store at the northwest corner of Peace Road and Route 23 in March 2017, but with the site still vacant more than a year later, residents have been left to wonder if the big-box store will ever materialize.
The superstore still is coming to the city. It’s just shrinking its box in a revised prototype design, representatives from Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Meijer Inc. said during a city Planning Commission meeting Monday.
Mike Flickinger, director of real estate for Meijer, said the company usually plans out new store construction a couple of years ahead of time. He said construction would be expected to begin late spring 2019 and will take a year to 14 months to complete, with a store opening slated for sometime in 2020.
“This was one of those stores that was in the planning phase when it came through the first time around,” Flickinger said.
Meijer sells groceries, electronics, housewares, and also operates pharmacies and gas stations at its more than 240 stores.
About half the company’s stores are in Michigan, with others scattered around the Midwest, including locations in St. Charles and Elgin.
The plans for the Sycamore location also call for a gas station, City Manager Brian Gregory said. Although the company now plans for a smaller main store, it still will be considered a superstore, Gregory said.
Plan commissioners Marvin Barnes, Ron Bemis, David Finney, Ken George, Bill Davey, Stephen Nelson and Nathan Schwartz approved, 7-0, a new plan for the store Monday that called for a nearly 20 percent reduction to the proposed store’s footprint.
Commissioners Penny Carter, Chuck Stowe, Ishmael McGhee, Ted Strack and Rose Treml were absent during Monday’s meeting.
The plan now will go to the City Council for its 7 p.m. July 16 meeting.
Former Mayor Ken Mundy had said in March 2017 that construction on the Meijer development was expected to begin in spring 2018, with the goal of having the store open in 2019.
Now, the project has to repeat the planned unit development special-use permit approval process, because Meijer revised the proposed store’s footprint to include a 159,264-square-foot anchor store that will initially include 574 parking spaces.
The square-foot-to-parking-spot ratio is about the same this time around, but the change still had to go through the planning commission and City Council once again.
Planning Commission Chairman Bill Davey said he was glad to hear the burning question regarding completion to be clarified during Monday’s meeting.
“Everyone’s been asking about it,” Davey said.
Flickinger said this new footprint with the decreased square footage is a prototype that all new Meijer stores will adhere to so the store can make the most of its space and still keep the same amount of personnel as originally anticipated in building a new store.
At this point, he said, the company doesn’t anticipate actually expanding its footprint from the now-smaller anchor store in the future.
“There are no plans for that space,” Flickinger said. “It’s just extra space from when we shrunk the building.”
The revised plan would also include additional space for more businesses to build store space to create a strip mall stemming from the proposed new Meijer.
Commissioner Marvin Barnes asked during the Monday meeting what would happen if no other buildings were built on the site, and Gregory said nothing would happen.
“It’s all really contingent on having the anchor store arrive and start generating the traffic that the ancillary stores would look for,” Gregory said.
He said the city’s chief concern for the project proposal was adjusting parking to comply with city code.
City code requires a parking island to be placed every 20 spaces to help with plowing and other upkeep, but Meijer has requested having oversized islands at the end of each parking aisle.
Mayor Curt Lang echoed that the city has been getting inquiries from neighbors about the project since it was approved. He said people mostly have been wondering what was taking so long with the project and whether the company changed their mind in developing the site.
Lang said the city is excited for things to continue moving along with the project.
“[Meijer] will bring a lot of activity to that part of Peace Road, bring a lot of jobs and give people a different place to shop and enjoy,” Lang said.