Kroger unveiled plans Tuesday night to demolish its existing grocery on Euclid Avenue next year and build a new one more than 70 percent larger that would offer some rooftop parking.
It's a rare move for the Cincinnati-based grocery chain, which typically keeps stores open throughout renovations, as it's doing with its Tates Creek Centre store.
"It is a great location but we are somewhat landlocked, so our customers will see some truly creative solutions," Kroger spokesman Tim McGurk said.
The company is billing the envisioned grocery, which is expected to cost about $15 million, as the first of its type for the company. It will feature a 125-space parking deck on the roof that will be reached via a ramp on the left side of the building. There also will be 99 parking spots in a standard surface lot. That's an increase of 44 percent from the 156s spots on site now.
"Our number-one goal is for our customers to not have trouble finding a parking place," said Danny Lethco, Kroger's real estate manager.
A large elevator with room for carts will transport shoppers to the roof. The company also will install a "cartalator," essentially an escalator for carts. Shoppers would not travel on that device but on an adjacent one and would pick up their carts at the top.
"It's something that's kind of new to the industry, and we're incorporating it into our plans," Lethco said.
Everything is being done with the goal of maximizing available space inside the grocery. Part of the extra space is coming from a 2009 acquisition of adjoining land that previously had homes on it.
With that extra space and the rooftop design to reduce parking demand on the ground, the store will be able to expand from 38,000 square feet to 65,000 square feet. There also will be 31,000 square feet of space below ground, where deli and produce items will be prepared. The space also will be used for storage and employee break rooms.
The new store also will change orientation. The existing store faces Euclid Avenue, but the new design will be turned sideways and face the PNC Bank.
The back of the store will face Marquis Avenue. The Euclid Avenue side of the store will have some outdoor seating and a small entrance to a cafe area.
The size and orientation of the store are among several issues that concern neighborhood residents. More than 60 turned out for a meeting with Kroger representatives Tuesday night.
"We do not need a store this big, and we do not need it coming to the edge of Marquis and Euclid," Janet Cowen said. "They're taking almost a whole block and building a brick wall to our neighborhood."
Several residents also said they'd like to see a more pedestrian- and bicyclist-friendly design, with a larger entrance on Euclid Avenue.
Even though it's dramatically increasing in size, the store, which opened in 1980, is far smaller Kroger Marketplace stores. Those are typically about 125,000 square feet and offer non-food items in addition to groceries.
The revamped store, which is expected to hire an additional 50 workers beyond the current 125, will be in a size range unique among Kroger stores in Lexington. And even if it were similar in size, Lethco said, it would look completely different inside.
"The perishables and meat are what's going to really pop with this store," he said.
There will be a walk-in beer area, a sushi bar, a seafood department, a soup and salad bar, a specialty cheese shop, a Kitchen Place section with kitchen and dining items, a health food section and a drive-through pharmacy. The store will have a seating area, too, with wireless Internet access, a fireplace, big-screen TVs and lounge chairs.
Construction is not expected to begin until spring 2014 to give the company time to petition for a zone change for the part of the property that once had homes.
Construction will begin with the demolition of the existing store. An off-site pharmacy will be set up somewhere nearby.
But it won't be for long. The goal is to open the new store that fall.
"While all the Kroger locations are important, the Euclid store will be very special for us — a truly spectacular store," McGurk said. "Ultimately the goal is to provide the best shopping experience possible, and we believe this new concept will deliver just that."