With a few amendments by the Memphis-Shelby County Board of Adjustment Wednesday, Oct. 23, the new Midtown Kroger supermarket rolled out of the planning and zoning process and into preparation for demolition of the old Belvedere apartments building and construction of the new store.
The board was the final stop for the project, which is one of several store overhauls and renovations the Delta Division of Kroger is investing $100 million into over six years.
The board amended the recommendations of the city engineer’s office, which had wanted one of two curb cuts on Union Avenue to permit right-hand exit and entrance turns only. Brenda Solomito, representing Kroger Limited Partnership, argued both of the curb cuts should permit traffic to turn right or left to keep shoppers from taking alternate side streets through the residential areas south of the store.
Memphis City Council member Jim Strickland was among those urging the board to overrule the recommendation from the city engineer’s office.
“If we listened to the city engineers, Union Avenue would still have those “X’s” and “O’s” that change at morning and at night,” he said. “It actually works better now than it did before.”
City Engineer John Cameron said his concern is traffic leaving the parking lot to be going east and seeking to turn onto Auburndale and westbound traffic on Union trying to turn left onto the Kroger parking lot. The competing left turns at the same time are close enough that the back up in one direction would block those in the other direction.
“The traffic will start to back up behind them and you will end up with basically gridlock,” Cameron said. “It’s something we are not going to fall on our sword over, but it is something that will impact the community to the north.”
The site now has nine curb cuts on Union that permit traffic to enter or exit going east or west.
Some residents on the residential side streets wanted more limited access or no access on Idlewild Street. An existing curb cut there that encourages drivers to the neighborhood to the south is easily and frequently driven around, they told the board in arguing for no access from the Idlewild side of the property.
“Not having access onto Idlewild is not an option for Kroger,” Solomito said.
The board agreed and voted to keep the same driveway entrance on Idlewild.
The supermarket at 1745 Union, which has been a Seessel’s, then a Seessel’s by Albertson’s and a Schnucks would be demolished for a parking lot for the new larger store to be built on the adjoining lot to the west where the apartment building now stands.
The demolition of the apartment building is expected to be the first work on the site and it could begin within the next month.
The 74,000-square-foot supermarket would front on Union at Lemaster Street with employee parking and the trash compactor subsurface completely enclosed within the structure.
The entrance would be on the northeast corner of the structure facing east.