By Amy Clark
Herald-Leader columnist Tom Eblen is right to call the zone change sought for the Euclid Kroger important for all Lexington: The case is precedent-setting.
Architect Graham Pohl has done wonders with the facade. But for all his skill and dedication, he has not yet prevailed upon the national grocery-store giant to yield so much as a single foot of the buildable area it claims for its own and which was granted by the Planning Commission in May.
In our view, city staff and the commission, by recommending for approval every element of the zone changes and variances sought and a building not a whit smaller than Kroger originally requested, effectively rewrote a shopping center into a zone to accommodate a single big-box structure far beyond anything the neighborhood and its streets can support. This is saving our Bluegrass with a vengeance. If this zone change with its egregious variances gets final council approval Aug. 13, we expect more to follow.
If the structure were indeed the 65,000 square feet Eblen believed it to be — with a third or so hidden away in basement storage with a roof deck for extra parking — our concern would be less acute.
In fact, the project means to take a present store the size of Chinoe Kroger (both under 38,000 square feet) and replace it with one larger above ground than the old Tates Creek store is now — 1.5 acres in footprint, over 65,000 square feet. In total — basement workspace, storage and all — the new Euclid Kroger is to be just the size of the enlarged Tates Creek store, both more than 96,500 square feet. This is building up and out.
Why should it matter what's hidden away underground? Because the total size of the store determines its function: how many customers, cars and trucks it attracts. It has to be a size the streets and roads can handle, along with the commuters and surrounding smaller businesses.
City planners estimate traffic at the store will increase daily from nearly 4,000 trips to 10,000 trips. With its front and checkout facing South Ashland Avenue, some two-thirds of the parking spaces look to have their most direct exit out the alleyway to that local street crowded with shops and cafes — where traffic congestion at the Euclid intersection already is rated unacceptable by city planners.
Whoever said "If you build it, they will come" forgot to mention the traffic. If indeed we near-downtowners deserve the grocery store the suburbs have, as a supporter testified before the Planning Commission, do we not rather deserve the traffic of a Chinoe than of a giant Tates Creek Kroger, set on Man o' War where two of the city's largest arteries meet?
Do we not on Euclid have urgent need of a store that makes special accommodation for our many pedestrians and cyclists? Are we instead to cram the rear drive so full with cars, freight, trash, roof-ramp and pharmacy drive-through that shoppers on foot are to be prohibited access there, for safety's sake? Are we to set a 330-foot wall along Marquis with no customer entrance and barely a strip of yard behind the sidewalk? Are we to pay no heed to the retirement home barely 150 feet from the parking-lot access on South Ashland?
Like Eblen and Pohl, we make our homes in Lexington's gracious older neighborhoods built in the heyday of the streetcar suburb, arguably the most walkable, verdant, sustainable urban design in our nation's history.
Like them we believe the Euclid Kroger in our midst can get a lot better. The stock could be fresher, parking is tight at times, the trash and freight area up against our Ashland Terrace neighbors is not to be suffered.
Replace the present building with a store as fine as Chinoe's — medium-sized, with the same fresh, attractive stock. We believe existing B-1 zoning allows a substantial increase in the present size — up to 50,000 feet, larger than the Lowry Lane/Nicholasville Road store. Add a roof deck for parking and you've got a winner.
We ask council to deny the zone change and keep our grocery neighborhood-sized.
Amy Clark of Lexington writes on behalf of the Euclid League (euclidleague.org) and more than 500 Lexington citizens who have signed its petition asking the Urban County Council to deny the zone change.