Over residents' objections on Thursday, Lexington's Urban County Planning Commission approved Kroger's plans to demolish and rebuild its Euclid Avenue location, featuring parking spaces on the roof and an escalator for shopping carts.
The plan requires approval from the Urban County Council, which has 90 days to act.
The commission approved all of Kroger's requested changes to zoning laws after a four-hour meeting. Kroger plans to increase the square footage of the store from 38,000 to 65,000, add elevators and add a basement for deli and produce storage.
Kroger asked for zone changes because if it wants to grow at the location, the store must grow up, not out, attorney T. Bruce Simpson Jr., representing Kroger, told the commission.
The new Kroger store is planned to expand onto four quarter-acre plots adjacent to the current store. In order for the new building to be permitted at the site, Kroger needs the site to be zoned B-6P, the zoning classification for shopping centers such as Hamburg Pavilion and Fayette Mall.
The location of the existing Kroger store is zoned B-1, neighborhood business. However, that code allows a maximum of 40,000 square feet.
The four new plots are now zoned P-1 (professional office), R-1E (single family residential) or R-4 (high density apartment).
Simpson said the new building creatively deals with limited space and will serve the community well for years to come.
"I don't think you'll have a better project for a more challenged area," Simpson told the commission. "And I don't think you'll have a better client that's willing to commit the kind of dollars to make it work."
Kroger has invested $19 million in the property so far, Simpson said.
However, several residents of neighborhoods surrounding the Kroger expressed displeasure with the proposal, noting that the store would sit close to Euclid and Marquis avenues, with the latter being a residential street.
Among issues raised were the effect the new store could have on nearby historical houses, how the store would be less friendly to walkers and bikers, and the eyesore the store could create next to houses and small businesses. One resident even said many people were starting to refer to it as "Fort Kroger" because of the building's size relative to the size of its lot.
Although commission members said they were sensitive to the residents' concerns about the changes, most said Kroger had done a good job of adjusting the building's plans.
"What I see is a very viable business that is looking at trying to create a better situation in what has been handed them," commission member Karen Mundy said.
With approval of the zoning code change and five variances, the project will move on to development.
The commission granted Kroger variances to allow three wall lengths to exceed 100 feet without a change in setback; to reduce the required 50-foot B-6P setback along Marquis Avenue to 25 feet; to increase the ground area building coverage from 35 percent to 50 percent in the B-6P zone; to reduce the required 50-foot B-6P setback along Euclid Avenue to 40 feet for part of the building; and to reduce the required 50-foot B-6P setback along the rear property line to 40 feet for part of the building.